Layup lifts Charlotte over No. 14 Michigan 63-61
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Charlotte 49ers came to Puerto Rico an afterthought in a tournament that featured two ranked teams and two more from power conferences.
They're going home champions.
Terrence Williams put back his own miss with 0.4 seconds left, giving Charlotte a stunning win over No. 14 Michigan on Sunday in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
"That's one of the most incredible basketball games I've ever been a part of," Charlotte coach Alan Major said. "All three games in this tournament got sticky. ... The thing that's been the thing that's been the most encouraging and fun for me is watching them coming together down here and just trying to be a team.
"They deserve this," Major said.
The title is the 49ers (5-1) second early-season tournament win in two seasons. They won the Great Alaska Shootout last season.
Michigan's Mitch McGary tied it at 61 on a layup with 9 seconds left, but Charlotte quickly pushed the ball up the floor. Williams missed a layup but got his own rebound and scored.
"I just stayed with it so I could get an extra chance at the basket and I ended up making the shot," Williams said. "There was no time to think I just had to react."
Denzel Ingram had 12 points and Willie Clayton added 10 points and 15 rebounds to lead the 49ers. Pierria Henry chipped in 11 points. Charlotte's Shawn Lester was named to the all-tournament team.
"We told them before the game, you belong in this game," Major said. "You've earned your way into it. Whatever was lined up before, bracket-wise and who's in it, you can't control that. But you can control the way you play. You can control how close you are as a team. You can control your toughness.
"We just said before the game — it's enough," he added. "Don't worry that you don't have enough. If you rely on each other, you've got enough."
Michigan overcame a 16-point deficit in Friday's semifinal against Florida State to win overtime. On Sunday it stayed in the game despite shooting just 31 percent for the game.
The Wolverines (4-2) also played most of the night without starting forward Glenn Robinson III, who logged only 9 minutes as he struggled with back problems.
The one player that was able to keep up the scoring load was Michigan's Nik Stauskas, who was chosen the tournament's most valuable player. He finished with 20 points, but played through an ankle injury over the final 9 minutes. Caris LeVert added 11 points.
"The injury was tough, especially defensively, because they noticed it real quick and whoever I was guarding just started running around a bunch of screens," Stauskas said. "It was definitely difficult just to move around and put pressure on them. I was kind of limited."
Charlotte held about a six-point cushion for most of the second half until Michigan took its first lead of the half — 47-46 — on a pair of free throws by LeVert with 6:12 remaining in the game.
But McGary, playing in his fourth game back from a back injury, was forced to the bench with his fourth foul at the 5:26 mark. The 49ers attacked, and immediately went on an 8-2 run to take it back the advantage at 54-49.
McGary returned with the clock under three minutes, and cut the 49ers' lead to 58-55.
Then, after another Charlotte basket Michigan cut it to 60-58 on a 3-pointer by Zak Irvin.
Michigan fouled, and Williams hit 1 of 2 free throws.
The Wolverines came up empty on the next possession, but after a foul this time Williams missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Spike Albrecht was fouled in a scramble on Michigan's next trip down the floor and hit the first of his free throws to make it 61-59. He missed the second, but a scramble for the rebound ended up in a jump ball and the possession arrow favored Michigan with 11.4 seconds left.
McGary got free on the inbounds pass for a layup, but Charlotte quickly pushed the ball up the floor to set up the final sequence.
"Another March game played in November," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Charlotte was really good. ... We're embracing this and saying, 'What a great opportunity to grow.' We had adversity tonight like we hadn't had, and we just kept plugging away.
"It's all good. I know that sounds crazy, but it's all good to come into that environment, play as hard as we did and fight back to have a chance to win."
Major said it's way too early to think about what his team's ceiling might be this season, though.
"Our thing is gonna be let's take the good from these three games and try to store that away," Major said. "We can still get better. Let's take improvement and see where we can go from here. I think it gives the guys a taste of how good we can be at some point. But what that is, I don't know."