Vanderbilt overcomes 8-point deficit in final 58 seconds, stuns Michigan to advance to NIT Quarterfinals

Vanderbilt scored nine straight points in the final 58 seconds to earn another dramatic, come-from-behind victory at Memorial.


Vanderbilt Athletics

Ezra Manjon celebrates after beating Michigan in the NIT on March 18, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Bryce Smith, Sports Editor

Memorial Magic is alive and well.

Vanderbilt and Michigan met on Saturday for a postseason matchup in the second round of the NIT in an afternoon filled with fireworks. The Commodores overcame an eight-point deficit in the game’s final 58 seconds to shock the Wolverines and earn a 66-65 win. With the victory, Vanderbilt will advance to the NIT Quarterfinals, ending Michigan’s season in the process.

“That was Memorial Magic if you’ve ever seen it before,” Jerry Stackhouse said afterwards. “I thought we just kept fighting there, and we found a way.”

It was an early morning 11 a.m. tip between the Commodores and Wolverines and both teams responded with sluggish starts to the contest. Michigan opened the scoring with five unanswered points via a Hunter Dickinson jumper and Youssef Khayat three-ball. Ezra Manjon and Colin Smith answered with a layup and three for Vanderbilt to knot the scoring at 5 apiece at the first media timeout.

Vanderbilt broke things open from there, scoring 12 straight points to extend their run to 17-0. Smith knocked down two more threes for the Commodores and Tyrin Lawrence rocked the rim with a windmill dunk to wake up the Black and Gold faithful.

However, in a first half that was defined by big runs, Michigan responded with one of their own, this one a 17-5 run that evened the game at 22-22. The Vanderbilt bench unit struggled contained the Wolverines in the paint, where Michigan collected 12 of their first half points.

The contest slowed over the final seven and a half minutes. Lawrence missed a double-pump windmill slam in transition and the Commodore offense came grinding to a halt as the Black and Gold managed just 36% shooting from the field in the opening frame.

Lawrence got revenge on the rim a few minutes later as he posterized Jace Howard, son of Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, though.

Lawrence’s and-one brought the Commodores advantage to 27-24, but the Wolverines ended the half on a 6-2 run to take a 30-29 lead into the locker room. Colin Smith led Vanderbilt will 11 points in the first half.

The second half saw more back-and-forth in the opening minutes as Manjon pulled the Commodores square with a corner triple to make it 34-34. Jordan Wright got in on the action as well with a hard drive and foul, splitting a pair of free throws to give Vanderbilt a 35-34 lead.

“I thought I’d change up a bit,” Wright, who changed shoes and into a T-shirt at halftime, said. “Put my T-shirt back on…I don’t if it worked [for me], but we got the win so I’m happy.” Wright scored all six of his points in the final 20 minutes.

But Michigan’s length and size began to create issues for Vanderbilt as Hunter Dickinson enforced his will. After falling behind,  the Wolverines responded with an 11-5 run thanks to Dickinson’s interior presence and three free throws from Joey Baker on a questionable foul call that sent the graduate transfer to the line.

Manjon helped cut into the deficit with a shifty pump-fake reminiscent of Scotty Pippen Jr. to make it a 45-42 Michigan lead. The Wolverines responded with back-to-back post entries to Dickinson, both of which he converted. The Michigan big man was fouled on the second attempt and knocked down the and-one at the line to make the score 50-42.

Vanderbilt responded with a small-ball lineup to try and spread the Wolverines out and the offensive returns resulted in a bevy of drives to the rim for Manjon, Lawrence and Wright. The trio clawed the Commodores back within five after a pull-up jumper from Lawrence at the 8:28 mark made it 56-51.

Both offenses stalled as Vanderbilt found more success on the defensive end by placing Wright on Dickinson. The Wolverines routinely found themselves at the end of the shot clock in this portion of the game, but three straight Tarris Reed free throws made it 59-51 Michigan.

A Trey Thomas corner three inched the Commodores back in at 61-57, but Michigan responded with a 4-0 run off jumpers from Dug McDaniel and Joey Baker to make it a 65-57 advantage. Thomas had a chance for another triple in between the Wolverine makes, but bricked it off the left rim.

Lawrence finally gave Vanderbilt some life with under a minute left, converting an and-one at the 58 second mark to make it 65-60 Michigan. After a full-court press, the Commodores forced a turnover near the Michigan basket. The Wolverines fouled Manjon on the loose ball, who knocked down both from the charity stripe to make it 65-62.

Michigan continued to have trouble with Vanderbilt’s trapping press as McDaniel threw a pass away at mid-court for another turnover. Manjon got to the rim again and converted to pull the Commodores within 1 at 65-64.

“I thought we just kept fighting,” Stackhouse added. “Picked up our pressure on them, Jordan [Wright] did an awesome job. We were able to use our quickness…we continue to play good basketball, I like what we’re doing right now.”

In an insane turn of events, Michigan turned the ball over for a third straight time, this time in the backcourt as Dickinson forced an errant pass. Lawrence took advantage as Dickinson goaltended his layup try, pulling the Commodores on top for the first time in the second half, 66-65. Lawrence finished with a game-high 24 points and added 8 rebounds as well.

“Speed them up,” Wright said of Vanderbilt’s late-game strategy. “We turned the pressure up and disrupted their offense and flow and we got some steals at the end.”

A McDaniel layup attempt missed on the other end and Vanderbilt emerged with the dramatic, come-from-behind victory over the Wolverines.

“We gave them the game,” Michigan’s Dickinson said.

Vanderbilt advances to the quarterfinals of the NIT, which will take place later this week, while Michigan’s season is over.