Indianapolis — Michigan has lived and died by the 3-pointer all season.
Why stop now?
Seventh-seeded Michigan used a second-half 3-point barrage to blitz No. 10 Oklahoma State and hit just enough free throws to hang on for a heart-racing 92-91 shootout victory in Friday's NCAA Tournament first-round game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Michigan (25-11) advances to face No. 2 Louisville on Sunday in a rematch of the 2013 national-championship game. The game time is to be determined.
The Wolverines finished 16-for-29 from beyond the arc, including a blistering 11-for-15 in the second half. The 16 made 3-pointers set a program record and tied the Big Ten record for an NCAA Tournament game.
“If somebody would have ever said that we're going to give up 91 and we were going to win, I wouldn't have thought that was going to happen,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We had enough firepower to withstand their incredible offensive talent and get enough points.”
After a fast finish gave Michigan a one-point halftime lead, Oklahoma State (20-13) came out blazing and made five of its first six shots to put the Wolverines on their heels.
Jawun Evans had two driving layups, Phil Forte III knocked down a jumper and 3-pointer, and Jeffrey Carroll added a 3-pointer to put the Cowboys ahead, 52-46, with 15:51 left.
Defense went out the window as Michigan began to dial it in from long range. Derrick Walton Jr. hit two 3-pointers and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (16 points) and Zak Irvin each knocked down one over a two-minute span to give Michigan a 62-61 edge at the 12:28 mark.
"They sped us up in the first half and the main focus out of halftime was just get back to us and play at our pace and not let them dictate,” Walton said. “Once we settled down and once we get going, it's hard to stop us.
“They scored at a high rate and every point they threw right back. They jabbed and we had to throw a jab right back. As a point guard, it's great to be a part of a high-paced game but man it's nerve-racking."
Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. talks about Michigan prevailing in Friday's 92-91 shootout in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolverines continued to light it up from beyond the arc with Duncan Robinson and Walton (26 points, 11 assists) draining back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 70-64 three minutes later.
Michigan added some more separation with consecutive 3-pointers from D.J. Wilson (19 points) and Walton to extend the lead to 76-68 at the 6:47 mark.
Oklahoma State didn’t fold, cutting the deficit to three and two over the next two minutes. But Michigan responded with each spurt the only way it knew how, with two more 3-pointers from Robinson and Irvin (16 points) to make it 82-77 with 3:47 remaining.
"Live by the 3, die by 3, if you don't make them everybody is like, ‘Oh they lost by the 3.’ Nobody mentions about the time you win by it,” Beilein said. “But we're going to take what people give us and if they're going to switch screens and get isolation, we're going to take them. You know why? Cause we can make them.
“If that's what they're going to do, that's what we're going to do. If they're pressuring us more, we're going to take it to the rim more and more and get downhill. They shut out everything in the beginning and they were less aggressive later on."
Oklahoma State made it a one-possession game following a Mitchell Solomon putback dunk but Irvin responded with a deep jumper to keep the Cowboys at bay and give Michigan an 84-79 lead with 1:50 to go.
Evans (23 points) missed the front end of one-and-one at the 1:31 mark and Walton hit a floater in the lane that appeared to be the dagger, putting Michigan up, 86-79, with 54 seconds remaining.
But after Robinson hit two free throws with 23.4 seconds left to make it a seven-point game, Carroll (19 points) gave Oklahoma State hope by banking in a 3-pointer to make it 88-84 with 18 seconds remaining.
Michigan struggled to put the game away as Robinson missed the front end of a one-and-one and Oklahoma State raced down to score on an offensive putback by Davon Dillard to cut it to two with 10 seconds left
Walton and Wilson eased the nerves and combined to hit four free throws in the final seconds to put the game out of reach.
“I couldn't watch,” sophomore center Moritz Wagner said of the frantic finish. “The last free throws I’m like just make it, praying and closed my eyes. I would’ve loved to just go in the locker room and wait until they get back.
“Walton and D.J., very proud they could close it out. One less free throw, we’re not sitting here.”
Forward D.J. Wilson talks about Michigan prevailing in Friday's 92-91 shootout in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
What many expected to be a high-scoring affair turned out to be an offensive struggle in the early stages. Michigan opened 1-for-7 from the field but its defense contained Oklahoma State, forcing three turnovers and limiting it to 1-for-5 shooting as the Wolverines held a 4-3 edge with 15:49 left in first half.
Once the pace started to pick up, though, Michigan began rushing its shots and never got in sync. Matters only got worse as Wagner picked up two fouls within the first three minutes, sending one of Michigan’s top offensive weapons to the bench.
Carroll was Oklahoma State’s only source of offense, scoring the Cowboys’ first seven points and sparking a 6-0 run with driving layup and two free throws. Evans added two free throws to cap the spurt and give Oklahoma State a 9-6 lead with 13:57 mark.
Walton snapped the run with 3-pointer from atop the key to tie it at 9, but Oklahoma State came right back with another 7-0 flurry in less than a minute. Lindy Waters III made three free throws after being fouled by Robinson on a 3-point attempt, Cameron McGriff had a driving layup and Dillard knocked down a deep jumper to put the Cowboys up, 18-11, at the 10:35 mark.
As soon as Wagner checked back in with 7:51 remaining, both offenses began to heat up. Wagner immediately scored on a layup and sparked a 10-2 run to put Michigan ahead, 28-27, with 5:03 left in the half.
“We were expecting our defense to kind of hold them a little bit more but we never played a team like that this season that gets up and down like that,” Wilson said. “We didn't know what to expect but after a couple media timeouts and we were used to their speed, we kind of adjusted well to it.”
Down the stretch, the teams continued to trade shots and the lead. Abdur-Rahkman completed a four-point play and Wilson scored four straight points for Michigan on a dunk and two free throws to briefly give the Wolverines a two-point advantage.
Then after Oklahoma State scored four straight, Walton drew a foul on 3-point shot with 4.3 seconds remaining and made all three free throws to give Michigan a 41-40 edge at halftime.
“I'm just happy that we play for another 40 minutes,” Wagner said. “We ain't done yet.”
7 Michigan vs. 2 Louisville
When: Sunday, 12:10 p.m.
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
TV / radio: CBS / WWJ 950
Records: Michigan 25-11, Louisville 25-8
At stake: Spot in Midwest Regional semifinals against Oregon-Rhode Island winner.
Sophomore center Moritz Wagner talks about the tense finish and Derrick Walton Jr.'s play in Friday's 92-91 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.