2018-03-18 10:29:02
Freshman’s Desperate Shot Saves Michigan at the Buzzer

10:29, March 18 103 0

WICHITA, Kan. — They call the play Tennessee, Isaiah Livers said, or maybe Indiana. Or possibly Texas, he was not exactly sure.

Whatever state it was named for, it worked out perfectly for Michigan.

Livers, a former baseball player, threw a strike to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, a former wide receiver, who then flipped it over to Jordan Poole, the University of Michigan freshman, who then hit the biggest — and maybe longest — shot of his brief college basketball career.

Poole’s desperate 3-pointer from about 28 feet went in at the final buzzer and gave No. 3 Michigan a dramatic 64-63 victory over No. 6 Houston to propel the 30-7 Wolverines into the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the last six years.

“He saved the careers of all the seniors,” said Duncan Robinson, who fouled out with 2:06 remaining in the game, and then battled thoughts that he had played his last game for Michigan. “I was trying not to go into that dark place, and it was hard. But Jordan saved us.”

In a game that saw 17 lead changes, Michigan trailed, 63-61, with 3.6 seconds left. Houston’s Devin Davis was at the free-throw line with a chance to ice it. A 67 percent free-throw shooter, Davis needed to convert one of the free throws to ensure that Houston (27-8) would not lose in a miracle shot, and two to put the game all but out of reach for Michigan to come back.

He took a deep breath and wiggled his fingers as he stepped to the line, but his first shot was woefully short, perhaps a sign of nerves. His second shot rimmed out, too, and Michigan rebounded the ball. The Wolverines had life and set up the final play (whatever it’s called), which is the same one they used to defeat the University of Maryland earlier in the season.

“We have several variations and there are three or four options off of it,” explained John Beilein, the Michigan coach. The option they used worked perfectly.

As Livers went to throw the ball in, Abdur-Rahkman curled along the midcourt line and found himself open on the right side, the same side that Poole had set up. Livers threw the ball to Abdur-Rahkman — a pass from a “former pitcher to a former receiver,” Abdur-Rahkman noted. With the clock ticking toward zero, Abdur-Rahkman dribbled a few feet until Cougars guard Rob Gray came out to meet him.

Abdur-Rahkman dished the ball over to Poole, who jumped and gracefully unleashed his arcing, long-range shot. The ball hit the back rim and went through the basket after the buzzer had sounded and the red light had gone on, igniting a wild celebration that went from one end of the court to the other.

Poole, who played only 11 minutes and had only 5 points before that shot, jumped to his feet and began running around the court as his teammates tried to catch him and celebrate. The Houston players stood in shock, including Gray, who was held to 23 points after scoring 39 in Houston’s first-round game.

As Michigan celebrated, the referees went to the scorer’s table to review the play and ensure that Poole had got it off in time. But he knew he had.

“I don’t even know why they were looking at it,” Poole said. “I saw the light come on after I let it go. I knew it was good.”

Minutes after the win, Michigan players celebrated in the locker room by spraying bottles of water at one another — including on their freshman hero.

By the time reporters entered the room, the floor was basically one large puddle of water, and people wanted to know what happened.

“We had a Poole party,” Livers said.