Some players laughed and smiled after a 57-40 loss to second-seeded Michigan on Thursday night. They spoke of a bright future in the Southern Conference.
Former Cobb County standout Karl Cochran scored 17 points, but 15th-seeded Wofford fell short of their pie-in-the-sky goal to play the perfect game needed to take down the Wolverines.
Overmatched by Michigan’s athleticism and mired by 1-of-19 shooting from 3-point territory, the heavy underdogs form Spartanburg, S.C., still appreciated their two-plus hours in the spotlight.
“I’m beaming with pride with these guys sitting to my left and their accomplishments,” coach Mike Young said. “So, we’ll walk out of here with our head high.”
Glenn Robinson III scored 14 points, while Jordan Morgan had 10 points and 10 rebounds as Michigan started its quest for a second straight trip to the Final Four.
The Wolverines still had some nervous moments after missing 15 of their first 18 shots in the second half.
Cochran’s 3-pointer with 9:25 left — Wofford’s only 3 of the game — whittled an 18-point deficit to 40-33.
But the Wolverines regrouped, and Caris LeVert’s 3 with 4:17 left gave them a 15-point lead to deflate Wofford’s dreams of an upset.
Nik Stauskas had 15 points for the Wolverines, while Robinson hit big shots in the same arena his father played in as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1990s.
But coach John Beilein felt defense was the decisive factor after holding Wofford to 34-percent shooting.
“We were able to get a win basically with our defense (Thursday),” Beilein said, “and that’s something a lot of people wouldn’t say if they watched us this year.”
When Wofford players were asked why they shot so poorly from behind the arc, forward Lee Skinner spoke up first and said “I don’t shoot from the 3-point line” before drawing some smiles.
A 39-percent shooter from long range on the season, Cochran finished with 17 points on 1-of-10 shooting from 3-point territory Thursday and 8-of-21 overall.
“Some nights, unfortunately, the ball doesn’t drop in the basket,” he said. “Unfortunately, we just faced a tough night from the 3-point line.”
But Michigan wasn’t much better after halftime after opening the second half shooting 2-of-12.
Cochran’s 3 with 9:25 left got Wofford within seven, and even the crowd broke out into a “Let’s Go Wofford!” chant.
As if flipping on a switch, the Wolverines then turned up their intensity. Morgan glided in for a basket and Robinson followed with a tip-in.
After a missed jumper by Spencer Collins, LeVert hit his 3 from the top of the circle to get the lead back to 15.
“We know we’re pretty efficient offensively. Most times we don’t have trouble scoring the basketball,” said Morgan, whose hustle in the paint helped turn away Wofford. “We know we’re only going to go as far as our defense carries us.”
Michigan was never truly threatened in spite of Wofford’s second-half spurt, leading 34-20 at halftime thanks in part to 11 points from Robinson.
Cochran was the only Terrier who scored in double figures. Skinner finished with six points and six rebounds, while Justin Gordon had eight points off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting.
The Terriers left Milwaukee disappointed but satisfied at the same time.
“This stage is one of a kind. It’s great to be in an environment like this — small school, you’re really not going to play in front of thousands,” Cochran said. “Unfortunately, (Thursday) wasn’t our night. We’ll probably be back next year, and the outcome is probably going to be better.”