'Hot' Michigan puts a 3-point beating on Oklahoma State
Indianapolis — After a certain point, forward D.J. Wilson couldn’t keep track.
Shot after shot, seventh-seeded Michigan couldn’t miss from 3-point range in the second half of Friday’s 92-91 NCAA Tournament first-round win over No. 10 Oklahoma State at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Wolverines shot 5-for-14 from beyond the arc in the first half, only to heat up and connect on 11 of their 15 long-range attempts over the final 20 minutes. They finished with more 3-point attempts (29) than inside the arc (27).
The 16 made 3-pointers set a single-game program record and tied the Big Ten record for an NCAA Tournament game. It was also the second-most made 3-pointers for Michigan this season, trailing the 19 it made against Central Arkansas on Dec. 13, 2016, that set a single-game program record.
“Honestly I didn’t even realize how hot we were. But guys like Duncan (Robinson), Derrick (Walton Jr.), Zak (Irvin) and Muhammad (-Ali Abudr-Rahkman), when they all shoot the ball we expect them to go in,” said Wilson, who finished 1-for-3 on 3-pointers.
“With our offense it’s pick your poison which one you take away. It seemed like they were giving us the 3 ball and that’s what we do best, so we knocked them down.”
After sophomore center Moritz Wagner misfired on a 3-point attempt on Michigan’s first possession of the second half, the Wolverines buried their next five 3-pointers — three from Walton — over the next seven-plus minutes to turn a six-point deficit into a one-point lead.
Michigan didn’t miss another attempt until Robinson’s shot was off line at the 11:35 mark. But Robinson made up for it, breaking a 64-all tie that gave the Wolverines the lead for keeps and started a 6-for-7 stretch over the final 10 minutes.
“The second half was — you go 11 of 15 from the 3, that’s hard to do in a gym by yourself,” Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood said. “And they hit some hard shots. Give them credit.”
While Underwood was in disbelief, the streaky shooting didn’t come as a surprise to several Wolverines, including Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman.
“I know what those guys are capable of. I see it every day. That’s what we do, we shoot pretty well,” Wagner said. “It’s not unbelievable to me. It’s more like I’m very proud, very happy those guys can deliver what they’re capable of doing.
“Sometimes you’re like, ‘Don’t settle. Go to the basket, draw a foul,’ and it goes in and you’re like, ‘Woo, I knew it.’”
Walton led the 3-point barrage and finished 6-for-9 with five of his 3-pointers coming in the second half. Irvin, Abdur-Rahkman and Robinson each hit at least two 3-pointers and were a combined 9-for-16 from beyond the arc, including a four-point play from Abdur-Rahkman.
“We took some high-percentage shots and that’s all I can say. I guess the rim got a little big for us,” Walton said. “Any time you break a record for a positive thing is great. I’m just happy that I was on the winning end of it.”
Bucking the trend
For Wagner, it was the worst start imaginable. He picked up a quick foul just over a minute into the game and then headed to the bench after he whistled for his second trying to box out on a defensive rebound at the 16:49 mark.
But rather than sit the remainder of the half like most players do with two fouls under Michigan coach John Beilein, Wagner checked back in with 7:51 left before halftime.
“Yeah, it was crazy. I was in disbelief,” Wagner said. “I was like, ‘Is he sure I have two fouls?’ He really trusts me and I was very proud of myself that he trusts me and my maturity level on that one because he usually doesn’t do that at all.”
Wagner said he didn’t petition or state his case to get back in the game. But once he did, he immediately made a layup to spark a 10-2 run and help shift the momentum in Michigan’s favor before checking back out roughly three minutes later.
“I’m not arguing when he puts me in, that’s for sure,” Wagner said. “I said, ‘OK, I’m going to do my job’ and I think I did. I think we had a good couple minutes.”
Wagner was limited to six first-half minutes and finished with six points and three rebounds in 14 total minutes.
Early in the second half, Walton limped to the bench after appearing to injure his ankle. But after a quick breather, he checked back in at the 15:40 mark and played the rest of the game.
“It’s just a little stub. I’m fine though,” Walton said. “I got really good tape. I got a really good trainer so he made sure nothing too catastrophic happened.”
...Oklahoma State outrebounded Michigan, 40-21, and grabbed 16 offensive boards that led to 21 second-chance points.
…Michigan is 6-0 when it scores 90-plus points this season.
…The Wolverines improved to 23-1 when they lead at halftime. Michigan led, 41-40, at the break.