WICHITA, Kan. – Michigan is going to Los Angeles. And the Wolverines have their most confident rookie to thank for it.
Freshman guard Jordan Poole canned a deep three-pointer from the right side of the floor at the buzzer, a last-second stunner to send the third-seeded Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 victory over sixth-seeded Houston in the final NCAA tournament game Saturday.
"We work on that play thousands of time in practice," Poole said. "We executed it perfectly."
Michigan will play North Carolina or Texas A&M on Thursday in the West Region semifinals.
Poole's shot came after Michigan faced a two-point deficit with less than 4 seconds to play and after the Wolverines were brutal from outside all night long.
After Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman missed a driving layup that would have tied the score with 3.9 seconds to play, the Wolverines (30-7) sent Devin Davis to the free-throw line. But the Cougars senior forward — a 67.1 percent foul shooter who was 9-for-10 at the line up to that point — missed both. Moritz Wagner collected the rebound for Michigan and called timeout with 3.4 seconds left, allowing for one more shot.
Houston did not put a defender on inbounder Isaiah Livers. He inbounded the ball to Abdur-Rahkman at midcourt, and he took two dribbles before finding Poole on the wing.
The freshman buried the shot from roughly 30 feet, through contact, as the horn sounded.
"Muhammad could put the shot up, but he had the confidence to find me and I knocked the shot down," Poole said.
Michigan was just 7-for-29 on three-pointers before Poole's final shot.
"That guy has an overdose of swag," Michigan coach John Beilein said.
The Wolverines struggled with their shooting all night long, going 21-for-59 (35.6 percent) from the floor. But despite playing from behind for most of the second half, Michigan will advance to its second consecutive Sweet 16 and fourth under Beilein.
Rob Gray scored 23 points but shot 8-for-22 from the floor for sixth-seeded Houston (27-8), which was trying to reach its first Sweet 16 since the last of the Phi Slama Jama teams went to the Final Four in 1984. Davis added 17 points.
"We had a chance to put the game away, and we didn't," Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said. "… There's always lessons to be learned. But this was a tough one."