LAS VEGAS – ESPN will have a marquee matchup Sunday, with Arizona scheduled to face Michigan for the Main Event championship after the Wolverines pulled away from UNLV to win 74-61 late Friday at T-Mobile Arena.
The championship will be played at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time on Sunday and carried on ESPN. Wichita State and UNLV will play for the Main Event consolation at 10 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
Michigan was coming off a shocking homecourt loss to Seton Hall on Tuesday but rebounded to beat the Rebels despite the game being played in a semi-neutral environment.
“We started off with no excuses and we were playing a late game,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “I love how our guys rebounded from a tough loss. A trip like this brings a team together. By being on the road now we really get a chance to grow as a team.”
Arizona beat Wichita State 82-78 in overtime in the first bracketed Main Event game Friday. Asked about Sunday's matchup, Howard said he hadn’t had a chance to scout the Wildcats other than what he saw briefly earlier Friday in person.
“Honestly, I was just like our players – I was peeking in on their game as well,” Howard said. “Looked like an exciting matchup.”
By the time Michigan’s Moussa Diabate and Eli Brooks sat down at a T-Mobile interview podium after Friday’s late game, it was 3:01 a.m. in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“I feel it,” Diabate said.
The Wolverines arrived Thursday from Ann Arbor and tried to adjust by saying up late to help adjust. Many of them were seen hanging out late Thursday evening at the Aria hotel north of T-Mobile Arena.
“We tried to stay up as late as possible to get used to it,” Brooks said. “But it’s a little different when you’re playing basketball games.”
Another difference between UA coach Tommy Lloyd and predecessor Sean Miller was pretty clear during the middle of the second half Friday.
The Shockers went on a 13-0 run without Lloyd calling a single timeout. Only after Wichita State made it a 16-2 run to pull within two points of the Wildcats did Lloyd call his first timeout of the half.
“I felt like we were a little bit out of control and they kind of came storming back and whether I should call the timeout earlier…” Lloyd said. “I was trying to save some for the end in case they did make the run and I trusted these guys. And we've got to play through some tough situations.”
Of course, Lloyd might not have needed any timeouts had the Wildcats just hit a 3-pointer early in the second half. They missed their first 14 3-pointers after halftime and were just 1 for 16 overall in the second half.
One of the missed 3s was an good look Mathurin had from the left wing after Kerr Kriisa pump faked twice to shed some Wichita defenders.
“I thought we had some wide open looks and you're not going to make all of them,” Lloyd said. “If you make a few of them, you might feel a little bit different.
"I thought we were up 13-14 and maybe (by hitting) one of these shots, we can extend it to 17-20, and then it's hard (for them) to come back. But that just wasn't the way it bounced today and they came back and (Wichita State's Tyson) Etienne hit some tough shots and timely shots.”
Not surprisingly considering the elevated competition, UA had its worst-shooting game of the year (40.7%) and also its worst defensive performance (in relative terms), allowing Wichita State to shoot 33.8% of the year after keeping its first four opponents under 30%.
What’s more, the Shockers made up the difference in regulation in other areas.
“Now it comes down to chasing loose balls and long rebounds, and things of that nature,” Lloyd said.