Survive and advance.
That’s been Michigan’s motto since beginning the Big 10 Tournament. The Wolverines survived and advanced all throughout that tournament, and did so coming into their Sweet 16 matchup against Oregon. But all good things must come to an end.
No. 3 seeded Oregon Ducks took down No. 7 seeded Michigan Wolverines 69-68 in Kansas City, Missouri Thursday night in the Sweet 16 round of the tournament, ending the immaculate run by the Wolverines.
Even though the Wolverines weren’t able to pull off the upset, they made it very difficult for the Ducks.
The first half was anything but clean. In fact, this may have been the sloppiest first half of basketball all season for the Wolverines. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zak Irvin had two of the nastiest turnovers of the season for Michigan as the team compiled seven turnovers combined in the first half alone. The team had 10 the entire tournament coming into the Sweet 16.
Despite the mistakes, Derrick Walton Jr. balled. He had 11 points, SEVEN assists and two boards after the first 20 minutes.
As for the Ducks, they just could not hit their outside shots for free-throws in the first half. They were 3-of-8 from downtown and 8-of-13 from the line. Meanwhile, Michigan was a perfect 6-of-6 from the line and 5-of-14 from its 3-pointers.
Oregon led at the half 35-33.
Coming out of the break, Oregon began to turn its first half weakness into a second half strength. It made two quick 3-pointers before the first media timeout and tried to runaway with the game early in the half.
But Michigan wasn’t going to let that happen. A nicely designed play led to a D.J. Wilson 3-pointer, and a defensive miscue for Oregon left Irvin open for a 3-pointer as well. That string of events pulled Michigan within one point.
Then the Ducks continued their run of hitting 3’s, hitting their down-low shots and controlling the pace of the game. They were up by as many as six points at one instance in the second half while Michigan was taking forced shots that were not even close to going through the net.
That’s when Walton took over.
The senior guard started off the scoring run with a jump-shot to bring it within four. Then Wilson hit a 3-pointer, followed by a Walton triple. After the run was all said and done, Michigan led by one.
After back-and-forth play, Oregon led by just one point with around 10 seconds left. Walton had the final shot, a 3-point attempt, but came up just short of another insane win for the Wolverines.
Oregon moves on to the Elite 8 to play the winner of the Kansas/Purdue game, while Michigan will fly back to Ann Arbor for the final time this season.
Regardless, what a run it was for the Wolverines. This has been a roller coaster of a season, but what they did was incredible. They survived a plane accident, won the Big 10 Tournament for the first time in a long time and made it to the Sweet 16 as a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With that said, thank you to the seniors who made this season so crazy to watch. And props to John Beilein for the incredible coaching job he pulled off this year. It was truly a fun end to the season.