WICHITA, Kan. — Michigan freshman Jordan Poole drained a 28-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer after Houston squandered a chance to lock up a spot in the Sweet 16, giving the third-seeded Wolverines a heart-stopping 64-63 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.
Devin Davis had a chance to seal the win, but the Cougars' gritty forward missed a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left. The Wolverines (30-7) called timeout to set up a final play, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman found Poole on the right wing, and the guard, with a hand in his face, squared up, went airborne, spread his legs wide and sank the winner as he tumbled to the floor.
The officials reviewed it to make sure, but Poole had clearly gotten the shot away.
"The guy has an overdose of swag," Wolverines coach John Beilein said of Poole.
"I was trying to avoid everybody, but I gave up and they tackled me," Poole said of the chase-scene celebration after his winning shot as his teammates took off after their tournament savior.
How unlikely of a hero is Poole?
- He hasn’t started a game all season.
- He made no 3-pointers during his team’s four games en route to winning the Big Ten tournament two weeks ago at Madison Square Garden.
- He played only 11 minutes Saturday and didn’t take a shot in the second half … until his winner.
Abdur-Rahkman and Moe Wagner scored 12 points apiece to lead Michigan, but it was the unheralded freshman who stole the show. Poole's flair for the dramatic earned Beilein's team a trip to Los Angeles for a West Region semifinal next week against today's North Carolina-Texas A&M winner.
Rob Gray scored 23 and Davis finished with 17 for the Cougars (27-8), who were trying to reach their first Sweet 16 since the last of the Phi Slama Jama teams went to the Final Four in 1984.
They just about did it.
Davis gave the Cougars the lead when he made two free throws with 44.1 seconds left. He pushed the advantage to 63-61 when he made the second of two more free throws with 24.9 seconds to go.
Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Matthews came up empty at the other end for Michigan, and Davis pulled down a crucial rebound, then stalked to the foul line.
The senior forward missed both.
The down-to-the-wire outcome was hardly surprising given the way the rest of the game went. There were 17 lead changes and 12 ties, including 28-28 at halftime.
There have been 4 game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds of this tournament.There have only been 3 other years since the field expanded in 1985 with more game-winning shots in the first weekend of the tournament. pic.twitter.com/e1mp3QS27O— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 18, 2018
The last time Houston was on the wrong end of a buzzer-beater in the NCAA Tournament, it led to this image... pic.twitter.com/XTs8lpCjXY— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 18, 2018
After his huge performance against San Diego State, the Wolverines were wary of Gray every time he touched the ball. They blanketed Houston's star on the perimeter, cut off lanes to the basket and held him to just eight points on 2-for-11 shooting in the first half.
Wagner continued to struggle after a poor NCAA Tournament opener, scoring just three points while dealing with foul trouble. Abdur-Rahkman was 2-of-8 from the field, including 0-for-5 from the arc.
Michigan air-balled three 3-pointers in four possessions spanning the break.