Michigan coach John Beilein flew to San Juan this week not knowing exactly what to expect from his team after some early-season ups and downs.
After a last-second, 63-61 loss to Charlotte in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Sunday, Beilein leaves with a team that's a little more battered than when it arrived. But with a little work, he said he's confident about what it could be down the road.
The No. 14 Wolverines tied the game on a layup by Mitch McGary with 9 seconds left, but gave up a put back on the other end by Terrence Williams with 0.4 seconds left.
"Another March game played in November," Beilein said. "Charlotte was really good. ... We're embracing this and saying, 'What a great opportunity to grow.' We had adversity tonight like we hadn't had, and we just kept plugging away.
"It's all good," he said. "I know that sounds crazy, but it's all good to come into that environment, play as hard as we did and fight back to have a chance to win."
Denzel Ingram had 12 points and Willie Clayton added 10 points and 15 rebounds to lead the 49ers. Pierria Henry chipped in 11 points. Charlotte's Shawn Lester was named to the all-tournament team.
The title was the 49ers (5-1) second early-season tournament win in two seasons. Charlotte won the Great Alaska Shootout last season.
Nik Stauskas, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, finished with 20 points to lead Michigan (4-2). Caris LeVert added 11 points.
Michigan overcame a 16-point deficit in Friday's semifinal against Florida State to win overtime. On Sunday it stayed in the game despite shooting just 31 percent for the game.
The Wolverines also played most of the night without starting forward Glenn Robinson III, who logged only 9 minutes as he struggled with what appeared to be back issues, Beilein said.
The one player that was able to keep to keep up the scoring load was Michigan's Nik Stauskas, who was named the tournament's most valuable player. He finished with 20 points, but played through an ankle injury over the final 9 minutes. Caris LeVert added 11 points.
"The injury was tough, especially defensively, because they noticed it real quick and whoever I was guarding just started running around a bunch of screens," Stauskas said. "It was definitely difficult just to move around and put pressure on them. I was kind of limited."
Charlotte held about a six-point cushion for most of the second half until Michigan took its first lead of the half — 47-46 — on a pair of free throws by LeVert with 6:12 remaining in the game.
But McGary, playing in his fourth game back from a back injury, was forced to the bench with his fourth foul at the 5:26 mark. The 49ers attacked, and immediately went on an 8-2 run to take it back the advantage at 54-49.
McGary returned with the clock under three minutes, and cut the 49ers' lead to 58-55.
Then, after another Charlotte basket Michigan cut it to 60-58 on a 3-pointer by Zak Irvin.
Michigan fouled, and Williams hit 1 of 2 free throws.
The Wolverines came up empty on the next possession, but after a foul this time Williams missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Spike Albrecht was fouled in a scramble on Michigan's next trip down the floor and hit the first of his free throws to make it 61-59. He missed the second, but a scramble for the rebound ended up in a jump ball and the possession arrow favored Michigan with 11.4 seconds left.
McGary got free on the inbounds pass for a layup, but Charlotte quickly pushed the ball up the floor to set up the final sequence.
Charlotte led 35-30 at halftime, never able to go up by more than eight points despite Michigan shooting just 23 percent from the field.
The scoring the Wolverines did get came mostly from Stauskas'16 first-half points and their 11-for-13 effort from the free throw line.
The 49ers only had three free throw attempts and were slowed down on the offensive end by 10 turnovers and a 22-18 rebounding deficit.
"This was a real opportunity for us," Beilein said. "We've got some real important games coming up and this is a great opportunity for us to learn that each possession is important. Each block out is important. Each foul shot is important. It hits you hard."
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