Poole party! Michigan tops Houston on buzzer-beating 3-pointer
Wichita, Kan. — Even if freshman guard Jordan Poole didn’t watch any NCAA Tournament games, he always took the time to watch “One Shining Moment.”
When the latest installment comes out, he’ll likely see himself playing a starring role in the highlight-filled montage.
With the season seconds from coming to an end, Poole drilled a deep 3-pointer as time expired to lift third-seeded Michigan to a stunning 64-63 win over No. 6 seed Houston in a second-round matchup Saturday night at Intrust Bank Arena.
“I definitely dream of shots like this,” said Poole, who played only four minutes in the second half and attempted just one shot — the winner. “I'm the one that when the clock is going down at the end of shoot-around, I'm dribbling the ball and I'm waiting to see if I can make the last shot. Today I did and I missed it. But this last one, I didn't miss.
"It's just amazing. I'm kind of speechless. Not a lot of people get to hit this (shot). Usually you're on the opposite end of a situation like this, especially in March.”
Michigan marches on to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season and for the fourth time in six years. The Wolverines will play the winner of No. 2 North Carolina/No. 7 Texas A&M game in a West Region semifinal on Thursday in Los Angeles. The tip-off time has not been announced.
But the thought of advancing was fleeting when Michigan found itself trailing 63-61 with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Michigan coach John Beilein drew up a last-second inbounds play that the team practices every three or four days, and is similar to the one the Wolverines used to knock off Maryland at home in the final seconds in January.
Freshman forward Isaiah Livers, who wasn’t being guarded on the inbounds pass, rifled the ball up to senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman near midcourt. As soon Abdur-Rahkman caught the pass and turned up court, two Houston defenders began to converge and cut him off.
That’s when Abdur-Rahkman heard a familiar voice calling out his name.
“I was thirsty because I've been hitting shots like that in practice all year,” Poole said. “I just feel like I always want to be in a situation like that at the end of the game and my teammates constantly tell me I got ice in my veins, so I definitely was thirsty. I saw that people were (covering) him so I was open.”
Abdur-Rahkman (12 points) dumped the pass off to Poole, who immediately hoisted the miraculous shot from well beyond the arc over Houston’s Corey Davis Jr. to extend Michigan’s season and trigger a wild bench-clearing celebration.
"As soon as I saw it leave his hand, I was like, 'Aw, this is good,’ ” Abdur-Rahkman said. “It's kind of a surreal moment because you always watch games in March Madness. People hit big shots like that and to actually be a part of one is crazy.”
At one point, though, it looked like Michigan had run out of chances.
Up one with under a minute to go, Charles Matthews (11 points) had a 3-pointer rim out and Livers was whistled for a costly foul that sent Houston’s Devin Davis to the free-throw line. Davis made both of his attempts to put Houston ahead, 62-61, with 44 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Abdur-Rahkman missed a jumper and Matthews’ tip-in rolled around the rim before Davis corralled the rebound and was fouled once again. Davis split the two free throws to make it 63-61 with 24 seconds left.
Then on what originally appeared to be Michigan’s last opportunity, Abdur-Rahkman drove to the rim and got a clean look, but couldn't get his layup attempt to drop with 6 seconds remaining.
"I think people were down,” Abdur-Rahkman said of the mood in the huddle after Michigan took a timeout following the miss. “I especially was, but I'm a leader so I have to keep that steel face and show strength.
“Coach B was boosting us all up because we were all down. We thought it was over.”
And it almost was until Davis stepped to the line with 4 seconds left with a chance to drive a stake into Michigan. But he missed the first to keep hope alive for a tie. Then he missed the second to leave the door open for Poole’s heroics.
Moritz Wagner added 12 points and Duncan Robinson scored 11 for Michigan (30-7), which has reached 30 wins in a single season for the fourth time in program history and second time in Beilein's tenure. The three other teams to hit the mark all reached the national title game (1989, 1993 and 2013).
Rob Gray finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds for Houston (27-8). Davis added 17 points and was 9-for-12 on free throws, with all three misses coming in the final 24 seconds.
“I'm a little speechless right now. I'm just trying to just appreciate the moment of what just happened,” Beilein said. “When (Poole) makes that shot, I am making sure that the clock went off. I'm trying to manage the team. I can't even look at the celebration of what's going on.
“And it's just — we did not play well tonight. We did not play well at a couple of positions tonight. We had tough games. And credit Houston for that. And so sometimes you feel, well, why did we win? We were fortunate. But you know what, I've been on the other end of those type of plays many, many times, and it flipped and we got the great fortunate break.”