Count Madison Square Garden among the places that Michigan's basketball team can call home. Its loyal and vocal alumni filled the place Wednesday night with cheers and chants for the maize and blue. The thing is, Michigan might have enough talent this year to be comfortable on any court.
The Wolverines beat Pittsburgh, a Garden regular because of its success in Big East games there, by 67-62 in the semifinal round of the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament. Trey Burke scored 17 points, including two clinching free throws with 1.5 seconds left, and fellow guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 for the Wolverines, who will play Kansas State in the tournament final Friday afternoon.
It was a pretty safe bet that two streaks were going to be broken in the second game of the doubleheader. Neither Michigan nor Pittsburgh had played a close game so far this early season. That seemed very likely to change.
Pittsburgh was especially motivated, what with Michigan having been ranked No. 5 in the country before the season and No. 4 before this game. Pitt wasted no time in showing that it was here to give Michigan all it could handle. The Panthers led by four at halftime.
The game was intense and loud, what with many Pittsburgh students and Michigan alumni in the crowd. Neither side had its pep band there, but they didn't need it.
Pitt did not enter with that kind of apple-not-falling-far-from-the-tree pedigree, but it was no stranger to the Big Apple. Before this semifinal, the Panthers had gone 28-14 at the Garden since the 2000-01 season. They had won more Big East Tournament games (20) than anyone else, and had won two Big East titles on the Garden floor.
When Robinson hit on a jumper to put Michigan up 48-44 with 7:03 left, though, it did sound like a home court for the team from half a country away.