Derrick Walton pushes Michigan into Big Ten title game

WASHINGTON - Derrick Walton Jr. was denied last week.

Bypassed as a Big Ten first-team selection by Minnesota’s Nate Mason, he was salty even if he kept it quiet.

He got his revenge today.

Playing one of the great games of his standout senior season, Walton carried the No.-8 seeded Wolverines to the Big Ten semifinal win over the No. 4 seeded Minnesota, 84-77, at Verizon Center.

Led by Walton’s career-high 29 points, which included with nine assists and a 10-for-10 effort from the free-throw line, the Wolverines (23-11) won their third game in three days and will play in the Big Ten title game at 3 p.m. Sunday against either Northwestern or Wisconsin.

Michigan reached its first Big Ten title game since 2014 and just the third in its history, having only won the inaugural tournament title in 1998.

Minnesota (24-8) made a late push, getting within three with under a minute to go, but Walton and Zak Irvin were dead-eye free-throw shooters, sealing the win.

After Michigan shot 50% from the line in a loss at Minnesota last month, they were 18-of-22 today (81.8%).

Michigan had control of the game for the first half but Minnesota made a run early in the second, even tying the game at 55, but Walton wasn’t letting it happen.

With the Gophers within three, Walton took over, hitting three straight jumpers, the second two from three-point range to push the margin out to nine.

Even on the third game in three days, Michigan’s legs were there in the first half.

The Wolverines shot 63.3% and took a 47-36 lead at the break, making U-M fans comfortable, knowing the 20-1 record when leading at the half.

Walton was the catalyst, producing six assists himself in the half, tying Michigan’s full-game total against Purdue.

Many of those came on feeds to Moe Wagner, who had 14 first-half points despite playing only nine minutes in foul trouble.

But even with all that U-M offense, the Gophers remained in striking distance because of their board work, grabbing nine offensive rebounds.

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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