Irvin's late-game cool gets Michigan past Tulsa

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Dayton, Ohio — This one wasn't a buzzer-beater.

But, just like the last one, it was a season-saver.

Zak Irvin, who doesn't make a lot of shots but seems to make the biggest shots, hit a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left to help send Michigan past Tulsa, 67-62, in a First Four game of the NCAA Tournament at University of Dayton Arena on Wednesday night.

It also was Irvin's shot that sent Michigan past Northwestern last week, and likely into the NCAA Tournament, which will continue for the Wolverines (23-12) on Friday night against Notre Dame (21-11) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 67, Tulsa 62

"I just have that mentality that no matter how many shots I miss, I always feel like the next one is going to go in," Irvin said. "Right when it left my hands, it felt good."

Irvin had had a couple of blunders before that, including a turnover and an ill-advised, quick shot.

But when it came time to draw up the play that could determine whether Michigan went home or East, Beilein went back to Irvin.

And Irvin, from the top of the key, drilled it to put Michigan up, 62-60.

"I look at his eyes," coach John Beilein said. "I can tell a lot in those eyes. And he wanted the ball late, and we just went with him."

Irvin then grabbed a defensive rebound of a Pat Birt missed layup and gave it to Derrick Walton Jr., who, after nearly losing the ball twice, was fouled.

He made both free throws, Irvin made both the next time down, and Michigan survived a game that seemed like a possible blowout at halftime, before Tulsa started the second half on fire.

"Our guys played their hearts out," said Frank Haith, the second-year coach of Tulsa, which was the last team to get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. "I'm proud of the kind of year we had."

Michigan, meanwhile, doesn't have to talk in the past tense yet.

There were several big plays down the stretch late, two in particular outside of Irvin's 3-pointer.

With 3 minutes, 51 seconds left and the shot clock about to strike zero, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman let go of a jumper at the baseline that seemed well off — until it kissed the glass and slid through to put Michigan up a point.

"Uhhh, I'm not going to tell you that," Abdur-Rahkman said, laughing, when asked if that's how he drew up that finish. He nearly lost the ball multiple times before getting that shot off.

Tulsa quickly got the lead back — it changed hands 16 times, and the game was tied nine times — and with 1:59 left, Abdur-Rahkman missed a 3-pointer.

The ball bounced high off the rim, right to the waiting hands of freshman Moritz Wagner, who threw it down for a dunk that had the sellout crowd — very pro-Michigan, even in Ohio — absolutely roaring.

It was the capper of a huge game for Wagner, who played 22 minutes, his most since against North Carolina State on Dec. 1. Wagner had eight rebounds, four blocks and a steal.

When he entered the game early, after Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle had picked up a quick foul each against a Tulsa team that is good at drawing them, Wagner had three rebounds, a block, a steal and a dunk — all in his first minute.

Wagner had been an afterthought until a surprisingly long cameo in the Indiana win — partially due to Doyle's sore ankle, partially due to Wagner's improved showing in practice — and Wednesday, there he was, helping his team get a win in the NCAA Tournament, when many detractors said the Wolverines didn't even belong in the field of 68, let alone 64.

"To be honest, I never really had a picture in my mind when I dreamt about it," Wagner said of the NCAA Tournament. "Now that it's true, it's kind of crazy, it's really unreal."

Irvin and Abdur-Rahkman, who ran the point plenty as Walton sat much of the second half after his third and fourth fouls, each had 16 points.

Robinson scored 13 — including another big go-ahead 3-pointer in the second half, after hitting huge 3-pointers late in last week's wins over Northwestern and Indiana — and a career-high 11 rebounds for his first double-double at Michigan.

The Wolverines were ice cold early, with a scoring drought of 6 minutes and 13 seconds midway through the first half, before Irvin stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer.

Michigan's defense kept it in the game during that spell, though, and the Wolverines finished the half on a 19-4 run, with Walton making the last 10 points — including back-to-back 3-pointers, one that rattled all over the rim before finally falling, and one from the corner with 6 seconds left to put Michigan up, 28-20.

That lead was gone in a snap, though, as Tulsa started the second half on an 8-0 run. Game on.

"So many games, we've really been up 10 or down 10. We haven't had too many close games," Irvin said. "I think the Big Ten tournament really helped us out. We were able to finish games."

Irvin was the hero in overtime against Northwestern and Kam Chatman against Indiana to get to this point.

Shaquille Harrison scored 23 on 10-for-13 shooting to lead Tulsa, which missed six of 15 free throws.

Michigan, meanwhile, made 13 of 16, including five of six in the final minute.

Walton scored 12 for the Wolverines.

"It's March, man," Walton said. "You win or go home at this point. It kind of boils down to a game of wills.

"Dig your deepest to make the extra play, the extra stop."