Michigan delivers 3-point punch to knock out Oklahoma St.
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Derrick Walton Jr. stuck to the plan Friday.
He kept running the Michigan Wolverines offense against an aggressive Oklahoma State defense and eventually things fell into place. Again.
Walton scored 26 points and had 11 assists as the Wolverines made a school record 16 3-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game, getting past Oklahoma State 92-91 in the first round of the Midwest Regional.
“We haven’t played a team that got up into us in a minute. It’s hard to simulate that in practice,” Walton said. “In the second half, I settled down. I wanted to make the right play consistently.”
Coach John Beilein had no complaints.
Seventh-seeded Michigan needed every point it could muster in a game that ended with a parade to the free-throw line, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer and a foe that refused to go away.
The difference: Poise and emotion, the same components that helped Michigan (25-11) overcome last week’s harrowing plane mishap to sweep four games in four days at the Big Ten Tournament.
Early Friday, it looked like Michigan’s momentum was waning. The Wolverines (25-11) looked out of sync and out of sorts in the first half.
But rather than change the game plan, Walton followed the script, steadied his team and the shots started going.
While Michigan made only five shots inside the arc in the second half, it went 11 of 15 from 3-point range — drawing increasingly louder roars from the crowd and more bewilderment from first-year Cowboys coach Brad Underwood.
Walton wound up 6 of 9 on 3s, and Zak Irvin made four more in front of his hometown crowd. Irvin finished with 16 points.
“You go 11 for 15, that’s hard enough to do in a gym by yourself,” Underwood said. “We shot 55 percent in the NCAA Tournament and just lost in the first round, outrebounded an opponent 40-21 and you lose.”
For Michigan there was no victory celebration — only relief after winning the highest-scoring game in this year’s tourney.
The Wolverines have won six in a row and need one more to reach their first Sweet 16 since 2014.
Juwan Evans scored 23 points and Jeffrey Carroll had 19 to lead Oklahoma State (20-13), but the nation’s eighth-highest scoring team just couldn’t keep up with Michigan’s 3-point barrage.
The 10th-seeded Cowboys finished the season with four straight losses and haven’t won an NCAA game since 2009.
Michigan erased a six-point second-half deficit with a run of four 3s, the last from Walton with 12:28 to go to take a 62-61 lead. They made three more in another flurry to take a 76-68 lead with 6:47 to go.
But the Cowboys rallied, cutting the deficit to two twice in the final 8 seconds — only to watch the Wolverines close it out at the free-throw line.
“Shooting the ball from 3 is part of our package,” Beilein said. “Today we were really good at hitting the open man. We valued every possession.”
Michigan: The Wolverines certainly have momentum. After winning four games in four days to claim the Big Ten Tournament title, Michigan might be the hottest team left in the tourney field.
Oklahoma State: For the Cowboys, the NCAA Tournament has been problematic. They’ve won only one NCAA game since 2006 and will have to wait at least another year to improve on that.
In addition to shooting 64 percent from the field in the second half and 51.8 percent for the game, the Wolverines had only four turnovers. They came into the game leading the nation at 9.42 per game.
D.J. Wilson had 19 points and four blocks for the Wolverines.
Michigan faces the winner of the Louisville-Jacksonville State on Sunday in Indianapolis. The Wolverines have never faced the Gamecocks and haven’t played the Cardinal since the 1997 NIT.
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.