WICHITA, Kan. — Jordan Poole made the same exact buzzer-beating shot the previous Friday. There were maybe 50 people in the gym, and all it did was win an intra-squad scrimmage. Saturday night, the freshman’s 28-footer as time expired sent Michigan to the Sweet 16.
After a timeout, Michigan, down two points to Houston, had to go the length of the floor with 3.6 seconds left. Isaiah Livers rifled a pass just shy of half court to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who advanced the ball past half court. Poole yelled twice — “Hey! Hey!” — and Abdur-Rahkman listened.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the luck was in Michigan’s favor. Poole’s 3 rattled home. The Wolverines’ march through March continues.
In the bowels of Intrust Bank Arena, there’s a mural on the wall between Michigan’s locker room and the court. “It’s not New York. It’s not L.A.,” the text reads. “Welcome to the land of Oz.”
The Wolverines’ recent path has taken them on a maize brick road from a Big Ten Tournament title in New York to two NCAA Tournament wins in Kansas. Los Angeles, and the Sweet 16, is next.
The Wolverines have won 11 straight games and will play Thursday at the Staples Center against the winner of Sunday’s game between the West Region’s 2 seed North Carolina and 7 seed Texas A&M.
Saturday’s game was tied at 28 at half. Houston opened the second half with a 4-0 run but Michigan scored the next five. Moritz Wagner hit a 3 on one end and took a charge on the other, the fourth foul on Houston big man Breaon Brady.
But foul trouble would soon strike the Wolverines. Duncan Robinson picked up his third with 14:10 left and, 12 seconds later, Wagner was hit with his third. Both went to the bench.
Rob Gray’s quick-release 3 at the 12:26 mark broke a 39-all tie. His fourth triple made it 49-43 Houston, causing John Beilein to call timeout with 10:43 left. Michigan came out of the huddle with Abdur-Rahkman driving and kicking to Wagner, who knocked in a 3 as he fell to the floor. Wagner missed the foul shot however.
Gray’s runner made it 51-46 going into the under-8 media timeout, at which point Wagner had four fouls. Michigan missed three clean looks at a 3 on one possession but dodged two Houston misses at the other end.
Charles Matthews broke the seal with a lucky roll, while Jon Teske was simultaneously fouled under the hoop. Teske made both free throws for a five-point possession, tying the game at 51 with 5:41 left.
Robinson’s free throws gave Michigan a 55-54 edge with 4:26 left and Abdur-Rahkman followed it with a pair of his own. But Gray patiently worked a pick and roll until he found Armoni Brooks for an open 3 — 57-all as Intrust Bank Arena roared.
Xavier Simpson’s and Wagner’s miscommunication led to an unforced turnover, but the duo quickly made up for it, as Simpson found Wagner ahead of the pack for a layup to make it 59-57. Houston answered with an and-one basket that drew Robinson’s fifth foul. The free throw gave the Cougars a 60-59 edge.
Wagner and Simpson rebounded each other’s misses until Wagner put it through, plus the foul. His free throw popped out, but Michigan led 61-60 with 1:41 left.
After Matthews missed a 3, Devin Davis grabbed the rebound and was bumped. He calmly made both free throws to give Houston a 62-61 lead with 44 seconds left.
On the other end, Abdur-Rahkman’s leaner rolled off the rim, and Matthews’ acrobatic put-back attempt somehow spun off the rim. Davis went back to the line with 24 seconds left and made one — 63-61.
After a replay review confirmed an out-of-bounds call, Michigan had possession with 17 seconds left. Beilein drew up a play for Abdur-Rahkman. The senior drove left but his shot attempt dropped off the rim.
Davis secured the rebound and was fouled with 3.9 seconds left. He missed both, and Wagner grabbed the rebounded and called timeout with 3.6 seconds left. The rest will live in Michigan basketball lore.
Much like Thursday against Montana, Michigan got off to a slow start. Wagner went to the bench with an early foul — he’d play just nine first-half minutes — and Michigan trailed 6-1, having missed its first seven shots. But Robinson made consecutive 3-pointers to give the Wolverines a 7-6 lead. They improved to 26-0) when Robinson scores at least six points. Robinson started the second half in place of Livers.
Houston took an 8-7 lead with all four baskets coming at the rim, but Simpson’s strip led to a transition layup for Abdur-Rahkman, who finished off an old-fashioned 3-point play to give U-M a 12-8 edge. Another Robinson 3, followed by a bounce pass from Jaaron Simmons to a trailing Wagner, made it 17-11.
Houston answered with an 11-4 run to take the lead. Gray buried his second deep, contested 3 on Simpson and assisted on the Cougars’ next two baskets to give them a 22-21 lead at the 6:30 mark.
It remained tight through the half, though the scoring slowed. The Wolverines had three air balls in the final two minutes; their final points came on an Abdur-Rahkman and-one with 2:33 left. The team went to break tied at 28. Just like Thursday, Beilein used 10 players in the first half, including Ibi Watson, who hadn’t seen the floor in four games. Wagner only played nine minutes.