Heartbreak: Michigan run ends on missed shot at buzzer
Kansas City, Mo. — D.J. Wilson was ready to celebrate.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman let up on crashing the boards because he thought it was going in.
And from Zak Irvin’s angle, the shot that he had seen Derrick Walton Jr. make a thousand times looked like it was on the mark.
In a back-and-forth game that came down to the final shot, Walton’s last-second, step-back jumper bounced off the rim as No. 7 seed Michigan’s NCAA Tournament ride came to a crushing halt in a 69-68 Sweet 16 loss to No. 3 seed Oregon Thursday at the Sprint Center.
"There's been seasons where I go into games and I think we may have reached as far as we can go. I didn't feel that today,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I felt we were going to win this game, we were going continue to advance because we're a really good team.
“It wasn't going to be magical, it was we were good enough to win this game and we proved it. We just had some possessions offensively and defensively earlier in the game we'd like to have back."
After Walton and Irvin (19 points) keyed a late charge to erase a six-point second-half deficit and give Michigan a 68-65 lead with 2:02 remaining, Oregon guard Dylan Ennis drew a blocking foul on Walton with the Ducks (32-5) in the bonus.
With a chance to cut it to one, Ennis stepped to the free-throw line for a one-and-one and missed the front end, only to have forward Jordan Bell soar in for the backbreaking offensive rebound and putback to make it 68-67 with 1:47 to play.
“Missing that easy layup and then giving up a free throw box out, those are four points that I, more than anybody, wish I had back,” Wilson said. “It crushes me."
Unlike their past games, the Wolverines (26-12) were unable to finish as Walton couldn’t convert a layup on Michigan’s ensuing possession and Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey scored on a driving layup to put the Ducks on top, 69-68, with 1:08 left.
Michigan had two chances in the final minute to take the lead, the first coming on a 3-pointer Wilson overshot from the wing with 46 seconds left.
Then after Oregon’s Dillon Brooks missed a driving layup, Bell (16 points, 13 rebounds) crashed the glass and corralled the offensive rebound, which led to another one-and-one situation for Ennis.
Ennis missed the front end once again and Wilson (12 points) grabbed the defensive rebound with 15 seconds remaining, giving Michigan one last chance while Oregon had two fouls to give.
“I thought they'd foul one more time and maybe we'd use a timeout,” Beilein said. “When we saw the matchup, Derrick really wanted it. I looked in his eyes and said, 'OK, he's going to get a good shot out of this.' And he got a great shot out of it.”
With the seconds ticking away, Walton dribbled in from the wing, made his move, created separation and got off a clean look but Michigan couldn’t recreate his magic as the ball bounced high off the front rim as time expired.
“I wasn't thinking about the foul,” said Walton, who finished with 20 points and eight assists. “I just knew time was winding down, and I wanted to get the best shot possible with time winding down. I had a good look at the basket and it just didn't drop for me.
"I just wish I could've extended the season longer. That's pretty much all I can say."
After an ugly, grind-it-out first half where neither offense could settle into a groove, the points started to quickly pile up in the second half.
Michigan cut it to one twice within the first three minutes as Wilson drained a 3-pointer and Moritz Wagner completed a three-point play. But Brooks and Dorsey (20 points) began to heat up, countering each basket with a 3-pointer to push the Ducks’ lead to four.
Irvin knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to cut it to one once again, but Brooks (12 points) scored five straight points on a layup and 3-pointer to push Oregon’s lead to 50-44 with 13:16 remaining.
Irvin snapped Brooks’ run with a mid-range jumper to spark a 7-0 spurt. Duncan Robinson buried a 3-pointer from the wing and Irvin knocked down another mid-range shot to cap it and give Michigan a 51-50 lead at the 10:49 mark.
After Michigan missed six straight field goals, including a point-blank miss by Wilson, Irvin ended the scoring drought with a layup to make it a one-possession game, 56-53, with 6:43 remaining.
Michigan continued to battle back behind Irvin and Walton, who combined for 12 points over the next four minutes to give the Wolverines a 68-65 lead that they ultimately couldn’t hold.
"It’s difficult, especially the way that we have played the last six weeks,” Beilein said. “I don't think anyone didn't think that last shot would go in. Credit Oregon, they just gave us a little bit of delay and confusion.
“Seven turnovers in the first half and eight in the game. It was not a great basketball game in the first (half). We could've really taken advantage of that and we didn't."