"I thought it was in," Quinn said.
Unfortunately for him and the Irish, the ball rolled out and gone was the chance for victory. Two Lester Abram free throws with 1.9 seconds left sealed a 71-67 win for Michigan over Notre Dame Saturday afternoon at the Joyce Center. For the Irish, the loss sends them to 2-2 on the year with a trip to 18th ranked Alabama set for Wednesday. Head coach Mike Brey saw a lot of improvement from last weekend's loss to North Carolina State.
"It was a great college game," Brey said. "As much as I'm disappointed, there is a lot for my group to build on today. Their experience played out and their senior guards really made big-time plays at crunch time."
Notre Dame seemed poised to win. After erasing a seven-point deficit, two Quinn free throws put the Irish up 67-63 with 2:19 remaining. But the Wolverines scored the game's final eight points to stay unbeaten at 5-0. Two baskets by Michigan forward Graham Brown tied the score at 67 with a little over a minute to go. A missed three-pointer by Luke Zeller gave the ball back to Michigan with a chance to take the lead. After a timeout, Wolverine guard Daniel Horton started to drive left while Quinn slided over to help. That left Dion Harris open along the left baseline for the game-winning jumper. Notre Dame had no timeouts left and Quinn pushed the ball up the floor but his running floater was no good.
"They were running a 1-4 low," Quinn said of Michigan's go-ahead play. "It's basically a clear out for Horton. Coach Brey was yelling to get into a 2-3. We didn't want to let Horton beat us with a one-on-one move. I rotated up and got a hand on it but it wasn't enough."
Wolverine head coach Tommy Amaker was glad to get out of South Bend with a victory.
"We knew they had a week to prepare off of a tough loss last weekend," Amaker said. "They put a lot in this game and we got their best shot. Chris Quinn is a bear to tackle and handle on that perimeter. I was really impressed with the play of our kids being down and battling back. I can't say enough about our seniors. That's what you need to have any success on the road against a quality opponent and tough environment."
The two teams battled to a 27-27 halftime score. A quick 12-5 run by the Wolverines gave them a 39-32 lead with just over 16 minutes left in the game. But Zeller's three-pointer three minutes later tied the game back up at 46. The freshman played the majority of the second half and finished with eight points and six rebounds. Notre Dame took a 59-53 lead on two free throws by Quinn but Michigan went on a 7-0 run to retake the advantage at 60-59 and set up the game's frantic final minutes.
The loss overshadowed the play of Quinn and Torin Francis. Quinn scored a game-high 26 points while Francis added 22 points and 13 rebounds. The two combined to score 48 of Notre Dame's 67 points. While Quinn had the majority of his points in the second half, it was Francis's play in the paint early on that softened the defense.
"We've been working on that the past two games of establishing our low post game early," Francis said. "Our whole front line is big and physical and I don't know who can stop us. We establish that and it opens it up for the guards. In the first half, it was a lot of me down low and then it opened things up for Chris and the guards."
"Our two seniors are fabulous," Brey said. "Torin has been good. He's playing like a senior big guy should. I thought Chris Quinn needed a game like this because last weekend he wasn't very good. Even though, he's a senior, that's something to build on."
Notre Dame struggled once again from outside the arc. After a 3-for-18 performance last weekend versus N.C. State from three-point range, the Irish followed that up with a 6-for-20 showing on Saturday. Junior guard Colin Falls was 0-for-3 from that distance and is one for his last 11. Falls did not score in the game.
"We got to get him going," Brey said. "We're going to need him. We're going to have to find a way of helping him without being too focused on just getting him stuff."
Michigan was led by 19 points from Horton, 13 of them coming in the second half. Brown added 13 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting day while Harris chipped in 12. Wolverine center Courtney Sims contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.