DAYTON, Ohio — Tournament time has become Michigan’s time, especially those last few drama-packed seconds. They’ve finally figured out how to handle them.
Zak Irvin hit a go-ahead 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in the closing minute as Michigan rallied at the end yet again on Wednesday night, beating Tulsa 67-62 in the First Four.
The Wolverines (23-12) made the leap from bubble team to the NCAA Tournament by pulling out a couple of close ones. They made a pair of end-game shots for wins in the Big Ten Tournament, including one by Irvin that beat Northwestern.
His 3-pointer this time put the Wolverines up 62-60 with 52 seconds to go. Irvin’s two free throws with 10 seconds left sent the 11th-seeded Wolverines into a matchup against rival Notre Dame in Brooklyn on Friday night.
And if that one comes down to the final minute, nobody will count them out.
“I’m just proud of how all of us have been able to do this, starting in the Big Ten Tournament,” said Irvin, one of four players in double figures with 16 points. “We’ve just got to keep that going forward.”
Tulsa (20-12) got 23 points from Shaquille Harrison, but its senior-laden lineup couldn’t keep up at the end. There were five ties and 12 lead changes in the frantic second half. After Irvin’s go-ahead 3, the Golden Hurricane missed their next two shots and the Wolverines got the rebounds and hit the free throws to close it out.
“Michigan had more breaks than us,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. “We didn’t get the breaks, and that’s what usually happens in those types of games.”
Tulsa didn’t even expect to get to the First Four after losing its opening game in the American Athletic Tournament — Harrison tweeted that the NIT was likely the next destination. The Golden Hurricane had one advantage over Michigan — much more experience, with four starting seniors.
Michigan has only two seniors, and both are hurt. But the Wolverines’ knack for finding a way in the final seconds held up.
“The fact that we won those games in the Big Ten Tournament — we hadn’t had any of those games,” coach John Beilein said. “That was really a thing we needed to learn.”
In the Big Ten Tournament, Irvin hit a jumper with 3.3 seconds left for a 72-70 win over Northwestern in the second round. The Wolverines then upset top-seeded Indiana 72-69 on Kameron Chatman’s 3 from the right corner at the buzzer in the quarterfinals.
Beilein thought his team showed some of the wear of playing a lot of games in a few days.
“But we didn’t feel it in those last couple of minutes when we made all the right plays,” he said.
The Wolverines had a lot of fans in the stands at UD Arena, a three-hour drive from Ann Arbor. The rest of the crowd booed them loudly when they took the court for warmups and again during introductions, a reminder that they were in Ohio now.
They couldn’t hit a 3-pointer — a staple of their high-scoring offense — and wound up struggling to put runs together. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten with 9.3 made 3s per game, but went only 6 of 25 from beyond the arc.
Tulsa forward Rashad Smith twisted his right ankle when he landed after making a basket that completed an 8-0 run midway through the first half for a 16-9 lead. Smith put little weight on the foot as he went to the locker room for treatment, then returned later in the half and got back into the game. He finished with nine points.
Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. made a pair of 3s for a 28-20 halftime lead, the fewest points Tulsa had scored in an opening half all season.
Tulsa: Made its 16th appearance and second in three years. The Golden Hurricane are 12-16 all-time.
Michigan: Is 45-19 in the tournament, not including years when it had to vacate records due to NCAA violations.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane went 4 of 15 from beyond the arc in their AAC Tournament loss to Memphis, forcing shots. Against Michigan, Tulsa was 3 of 15.
Michigan: Freshman forward Moritz Wagner blocked two shots all season. He had three blocks in the first 8 minutes and four overall.
Tulsa: Loses seven seniors who played regularly, including starters Harrison, Smith, James Woodard and Brandon Swannegan.
Michigan: Plays sixth-seeded Notre Dame on Friday in Brooklyn. Michigan has won their two previous NCAA Tournament matchups, in 1974 and 1976.