Three-pointers are often like a bomb going off. They can anhilate an opponent with in the matter of moments if the right team gets hot. For the Oklahoma State Cowboys they could not withstand a second half onslaught from the Michigan Wolverines on Friday night.
Michigan nailed 11-of-15 in the second half from deep as the Wolverines beat the Cowboys 92-91 to end Oklahoma State's season.
"You go 11-for-15, that's hard enough to do in a gym by yourself," Oklahoma State's head coach Brad Underwood said.
Cowboys finish the season 20-13, and on a four-game losing streak and have not won a NCAA Tournament games since beating Tennessee in 2009.
One of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in the nation caught fire in the second half and when it came down to it, Oklahoma State was right there through the thick of things.
The Pokes jumped out to a 27-20 lead with 7:25 left in the first half when Sophomore Jeffrey Carroll barrelled through the lane for the two-hand flush. To this point, Oklahoma State had controlled the entire point of the game. They were a step quicker than Michigan. The Wolverines had trouble guarding the slightly quicker Cowboys.
Things change when threes start falling. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman nailed a big one. Zak Irvin followed with another. When Senior Phil Forte, III fouled Abdur-Rahkman on a three-point bucket, the Michigan comeback had been complete. Abdur-Rahkman nailed the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play, putting Michigan up 34-32 with 3:27 left in the half.
Jawun Evans scored the earth racing down for a lay up, putting Oklahoma State up 40-38 with 37 seconds left, but Mitchell Solomon fouled Derrick Walton Jr. on a three attempt and the free throws fell through, putting Michigan up 41-40 at the break.
Evans did everything in his power to will the Pokes to victory. The Sophomore scored 23 points on 10-of-26 shooting. He also dishes out 12 assists and pulling down seven rebounds. Evans was responsible for 49 of Oklahoma State's 91 points in 36 minutes.
"We shot 55 percent in the NCAA Tournament and just lost in the first round, outrebounded an opponent 40-21 and you lose," Underwood said.
Oklahoma State had 21 second chance points on 16 offensive rebounds, but Michigan's three-point onslaught and their ability to get to the free throw line (18-of-22) was really a deciding factor.
Though the three-point barrage saw the final score favor the Wolverines' school record, 16 makes, it was Oklahoma State who started the second half hot. They pushed it out to a 59-54 lead with 14:02 left. That's when Abdur-Rahkman and Walton Jr. found their stroke from deep again to take the 62-61 lead with 12:28 left.
Michigan's three-point shooting reached it's peak with 9:12 left to in regulation as Michigan's Walton Jr. nailed a trey in the eye of Evans. Walton put the ball between his legs, created a little space and nailed the step back trey for the left corner. Michigan led 70-64.
Leyton Hammonds nailed a trey, cutting it to a three-point deficit with 4:51 left, but Duncan Robinson counter with a three-pointer of his own to keep the Cowboys at bay.
Despite all of the efforts in the end by Evans, Michigan flexed their muscles as one of the best free throw shotoing teams in the nation by nailing down the final six attempts to ice the game.
For the Wolverines, Walton Jr. scored 26 points and added 11 assists. D.J. Wilson had 19 points and four blocks for the Wolverines, and Zak Irvin had 16 points and four treys. Abdur-Rahkman each had 16 points, including 3-of-6 from three.
Both teams in the second half were efficient as they could be at taking care of the ball. There were only four combined turnovers in the second half. Oklahoma State only turned Michigan over four times and the Wolverines continue leading the nation in lowest turnovers per game.
Michigan both scored and gave up 90 points in a NCAA Tournament game for the first time since defeating East Tennessee State 102-90 in 1992.
In a wild turn of events, the buzzer beating heave by Evans changed money in a lot of hands as the spread was only Michigan by 2.5. Evans shot put the deficit at only 1, which Vegas lost a lot on that.
Oklahoma State's progress throughout the season shows promise for next season. Underwood has relit the fire underneath the fan base once again. With a solid recruiting class due to land in Stillwater next season and the potential return of Evans, the future is bright for the Cowboys.