Michigan outlasts Tennessee as Sweet 16 game comes to a charged conclusion

Kevin Kaduk
The Dagger

INDIANAPOLIS — In Knoxville, it'll forever be known as the flop seen 'round the world.

In Ann Arbor, it'll eternally be praised as the charge that extended another run to the Elite Eight. 

Everywhere else? Well, that's for you to decide. From this reporter's viewpoint on the nearby sideline, Jordan Morgan's feet sure didn't look set in the final moments of Michigan's controversial 73-71 win over Tennessee in Friday night's Sweet 16 game at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

And yet even if the most ardent of Wolverine supporters want to insist that it was correct to call Tennessee big man Jarnell Stokes for a charge there, they at least have to admit it was a crummy way to decide a great basketball game. Maybe Stokes gets the basket that erases second-seeded Michigan's one-point lead and puts the 11th-seeded  Volunteers on the brink of an upset. Maybe he doesn't. 

Still, in a season that has seen the offensive foul driven to the brink of extinction because of new requirements, the players should have been allowed to decide the game. Two late possession calls were also questionable, even after the officials went to the monitors.

"No, I didn't think I fouled him," said Stokes, before taking the high road. "But it was a smart play for [Morgan] to take the charge. He pretty much anticipated it."

[Photos: Catch the best action from Tennessee vs. Michigan]

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin allowed that "both guys were moving" but didn't let disappointment or frustration get the best of him in the postgame press conference. 

"I thought [Stokes] made a good move," said Martin of the inbounds play that set his forward free on a screen. "The official called a charge." 

The call helped Michigan save itself from what would have been a big collapse. The Wolverines shot lights-out in the first half, going 62 percent and hitting 7-of-9 three pointers to take an 11-point halftime lead. Tennessee remained pesky in the second half, but the Wolverines had an answer for everything and were seemingly on their way to a third straight double-digit victory in the NCAA tournament. 

A dunk by Morgan put the Wolverines up eight points with 2:22 remaining. The Volunteers, however, went on a 7-0 run spurred by three turnovers, including an inbounds pressure that saw Caris LeVert step on Tennessee's baseline with just 9.6 seconds remaining

That set the stage for the game's disputed finish. The rule change instituted before the season states that the defender must be established before the offensive player begins his motion to shoot or pass. 

Morgan, for his part, was not apologetic. 

"I just know he likes to play bully ball ... he got into his stance," said Morgan of Stokes. "I don't know. It's just something I do. I take charges." 

The 6-foot-8 senior was feeling pretty good about his role and yelled "mismatch" as the Wolverines walked off the floor with their narrow two-point victory. The boast may have seemed like another bit of Morgan's revisionist history but it was instead a release of frustration after a week of Tennessee's inside size being a main storyline and a reason the Vols might be able to pull off the upset. 

[NCAA tournament: Full bracket | Check out Instant Reactions | Buy team gear]

Stokes averaged more than 20 points in Tennessee's three previous tournament games, but was limited to 11 points and just six rebounds against Michigan. Fellow big man Jeronne Maymon was also nullified after falling into early foul trouble, finishing with two points.

"We heard all week about they had mismatches and how we couldn't guard them inside," Morgan said. " I guess people forgot we play in the Big Ten and we won the Big Ten outright. So we're not really soft around here. That's not who we are. We lift a lot of weights ... We're not about to get punked."

As Michigan coach John Beilein later said "a win's a win" and who can blame Morgan for feeling good? The victory puts Michigan (28-8) in its second straight Elite Eight and just one win away from back-to-back Final Fours after reaching the national title game a year ago. 

Michigan's next opponent will be a tough one as it'll play young Kentucky for the Midwest Regional title. 

Here's hoping the ending to that one turns out to be a bit more organic. 

- - - - - - -

Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports.. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next