Wichita, Kan. – Houston had Michigan on the ropes late in the second half.
Trailing by five with less than eight minutes to play and in the midst of a nearly five-minute scoring drought, any hope of returning to the Sweet 16 appeared to be slipping away from the Wolverines.
That was until the unexpected happened – a five-point play.
The critical possession helped give third-seeded Michigan life and set the stage for a see-saw finish in Saturday’s wild 64-63 win in an NCAA Tournament second-round game at Intrust Bank Arena.
“It was big,” senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said. “Our offense got stalled a little bit. They did great things to stop our offense and we definitely needed that.”
After junior center Moritz Wagner buried a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 49-46 with 10:30 to play, Michigan hit a cold spell and missed six consecutive shots.
It dragged on until the 5:43 mark, when redshirt sophomore wing Charles Matthews snapped the drought with a 3-pointer from the wing. While the shot was in the air, sophomore center Jon Teske was fouled underneath the basket by Wes VanBeck for Houston’s seventh whistle of the half to put Michigan in the bonus.
Teske, who was shooting 46.2 percent (6-for-13) from the stripe the past five games, stepped up and knocked down both of his attempts to complete the rare five-point trip and tie it at 53.
“We got down and we just had to stay together and stay poised,” Teske said. “We knew that we had to continue to fight and C-Matt put up a great shot and I just got in a good rebound position, hoping to get an offensive rebound. Fortunately, it went in, I got fouled and I was able to knock down both those shots.”
Detroit News writers James Hawkins and John Niyo break down Michigan's 64-63 win on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The play ended up providing a pivotal spark, much like it did for Ohio State back in December when the Buckeyes pulled off the rare feat and rallied from a 20-point deficit against Michigan.
This time around, the Wolverines were on the other end of it and it kick-started an 11-3 run with two free throws apiece by fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson, Abdur-Rahkman and Teske that gave Michigan a 57-54 advantage with 3:42 remaining.
“He’s a much better (free-throw) shooter than he’s shot lately,” Michigan coach John Beilein said of Teske. “Those were big ones because we couldn’t score. That was the only way we were going to score late. For us to get the five-point play like at Ohio State, that was a big change in the game.”
While freshman guard Jordan Poole’s winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer from way downtown stole the show, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson couldn’t help but point to the five-point possession as the turning point down the stretch.
“You know, sports are a great metaphor for life sometimes. It's not always fair,” Sampson said. “I thought our team deserved to win that game. For 39 minutes and 57 seconds I thought we were the better team.
“There was one huge play there that I wished could have been – we were up 51-46 and they got a five-point play. That was a big play.”