Michigan entered the NCAA tournament as a hot pick for the Final Four and a Vegas favorite to outplay its No. 3 seed.
Houston had other ideas Saturday in a second-round NCAA matchup, seemingly having the game in hand with senior forward Devin Davis securing a rebound and picking up a foul with 3.9 seconds left and the Cougars holding a 63-61 lead.
But Davis missed both of his free throws, setting up freshman Jordan Poole and the Wolverines for a moment they will never forget.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) March 18, 2018
Poole’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer on a pass from senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman secured a 64-63 Michigan win and a date next weekend in the Sweet 16.
Poole told reporters that he didn’t even know the shot went in until he saw the reaction from the Michigan bench.
“We work on that play thousands of times in practice,” Poole said. “We executed it perfectly, especially from the inbounds pass, getting it to our senior guard Muhammad. Ham could have put the shot up easily, but he had the confidence to find me, and I just knocked the shot down.
“I think the guys on the team know that I never lose confidence. You’ve just got to always be ready for the opportunity and for the moment.”
Poole, a streaky shooter and spot rotation player hitting 37.8 percent of his 3-pointers, entered the game on a cold run, having scored just 16 points in the Wolverines’ previous five games. In contrast, he hit five 3-pointers against Indiana on Dec. 2.
He obviously found his stroke at the right time.
He finished the game with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field in 11 minutes off the bench.
“We had him in the scout team earlier in the year because he was still growing and was not a guy that was in our top nine,” Michigan coach Jim Beilein said of Poole after the game. “And the shot clock would get down and, you know, the first team’s all excited they’re going to get a stop, and he’d put in a buzzer shot.”
Davis, meanwhile, was great at the line throughout the game but missed three of his last four free throws as he finished 9-of-12 from the stripe.
It was a stunning finish that demonstrated the immense joy and devastating heartbreak the NCAA tournament is known for.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2018
The game was tight throughout as both teams struggled to score and traded the lead 17 times. Houston shot 37 percent from the field while Michigan managed to hit 35.6 percent of its field goals.
Junior forward Mortiz Wagner did most of the damage for Michigan with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Abdur-Rahkman also logged 12 points. Charles Matthews and Duncan Robinson were the only other Wolverines in double figures with 11 points each.
Rob Gray, Houston’s leading scorer, filled up the box score with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but needed 22 shots to get there. Davis put in a productive 35 minutes, logging 17 points and seven rebounds that will be of little solace after he missed those final free throws.
Michigan will move on to face the winner of Sunday’s matchup between North Carolina and Texas A&M. The Wolverines will depend on the stifling defense that led them to the Big Ten tournament title and through the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, but will likely need more from their offense to advance to the next round.
But Saturday’s not a night for Michigan to contemplate what’s next. It’s a night for celebration.
More NCAA tournament coverage from Yahoo Sports:
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