Michigan advances to Sweet 16 on Jordan Poole buzzer-beating prayer

By Max Marcovitch on March 19, 2018 

Somehow, some way.

His legs flailing each and every direction and a defender square in his face, Jordan Poole caught a pass on the right wing from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and hoisted a prayer.

And as the ball found sweet nylon, the prayer was granted — somehow, some way — in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The freshman guard darted to the opposite side of the court, greeted by the rest of his jubialant team as they celebrated an astonishing 64-63 win.

It was a miracle on the Great Plains the likes of which will live in Michigan lore right alongside the Trey Burke shot and the Denard Robinson pass at Under the Lights I.

“I was thirsty,” Poole told a swath of reporters after the game. “Definitely thirsty. Because I’ve been hitting shots like that in practice all year. I just felt like I always wanted to be in a situation like that at the end in the game, and my teammates constantly tell me that I’ve got ice in my veins.

“I definitely dreamed about this a long time. Actually, before I went out there on there, I thought, ‘What if I hit this shot right now as a freshman?’ ”

And that he did. On this stage. With these implications. Somehow, some way, the only player with the personality to match the grand moment found the ball with 0.8 seconds and a season teetering in the balance.

Now Michigan will head to Los Angeles next weekend to play its fourth Sweet Sixteen game in six years on the back of a monstrous defense and one lucky St. Patrick’s Day heave.

“I don’t have any words for that one,” said fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson. “It’s incredible. That’s all I got.”

Somehow, some way.

For much of the game, though, there appeared to be no way.

For the second consecutive game, Michigan’s offense fell victim to offensive lulls that threatened its survival in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines went to the first TV timeout once again without a made field goal, this time trailing 6-1, having missed their first seven shots including six threes.

Robinson broke the seal nearly six minutes in, nailing a deep three with a hand in his face. He did it again on the next possession, pumping up his bench on the gallop back down the court.

That was the tone all night, on both sides — a tough, physical street fight. It’s a style Michigan has come to relish this season.

For all the talk about Cougars guard Rob Gray offensively — coming off a 39-point performance against San Diego State — it was the defense on both ends that controlled the game.

Gray, the alpha and omega of Houston’s offense, couldn’t find his rhythm in the first half, thanks to a swarming defensive effort from Michigan guards Zavier Simpson and Abdur-Rahkman. Gray finished with 23, but on 8-of-22 shooting.

“We just tried to limit his threes, make him score tough twos,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “He made a lot of them, but that’s all you can really do, is try to force him into contested shots.”

On the flip side, a physical Houston man defense held the Wolverines in check, stifling Michigan’s pick-and-roll action with athleticism, holding it so just 30 percent from the field. By the end of the game, a dejected Wolverines bench thought that would be the culprit of its dying season.

“They were down because we did some things that aren’t winning basketball today — just a few, but just enough,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “But credit Houston. They made us make some of those plays.”

At half, the game was tied at 28, those struggles leaving the game back where it started, just with a few more bumps and bruises.

And while the bumps and bruises didn’t subside, the lid on the buckets slowly did.

Then, it was game on.

With 17 lead changes and 12 ties in total, neither team took firm control until Gray began to come to life midway through the half. He scored eight of his team’s 10 points at one point, nabbing a six point lead with 10:43 left on an inexplicably wide-open three.

But the see-saw swung right back. Michigan fought through recurring offensive demons, finishing the game with just 36 percent shooting. 

And it has more than just one fortuitous bounce to thank for the escape.

Down 51-46 with just over five minutes left, Matthews shot a 3-pointer off the back of the rim. It careened high into the air and through the hoop just as a Houston forward was whistled for a foul. Teske made both free throws, and suddenly a 51-46 game became 51-51 in only a single possession.

The teams traded blows from there, with the Cougars grabbing what seemed to be the final lead with 44 seconds left on two free-throws from forward Devin Davis.

But that wasn’t the last of Michigan’s season. It just couldn’t be. There was a little more than a strong breeze flowing through Intrust Bank Arena on Saturday night. Sophomore center Jon Teske could just feel it.

“I actually told CJ (Baird), I didn’t think we were gonna go home,” Teske said. “I felt something special was going to happen and I’m just glad he knocked that down. … It’s something I will always remember.”

And in a wild back and forth affair, it all came down to a howling freshman, with the confidence to belt “Ham” — the team’s nickname for Abdur-Rahkman — with the season on the line. The call was “Tennessee,” the same full-court inbound play run to beat Maryland early in the season as time expired. The senior caught the pass at midcourt and then put his season and career in the hands of Poole, who answered the faith with one of the most historic shots in program history.

“I knew they were not going to let me shoot the ball. So I was looking for JP,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I knew he could knock it down.

Literally, he makes it all the time in practice.”

And as the entire team piled on Poole under the hoop, cheers reigned down from the traveling Michigan crowd and band.

“It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”


No. 4 Michigan embarrassed by No. 10 Ohio State, 62-39

By Mike Persak on Nov. 24, 2018

COLUMBUS — The No. 4 Michigan football team was just hanging on.

Even when the Wolverines went down two touchdowns in the first half, and even when momentum favored Ohio State to begin the second half, they hung perilously within reaching distance.

But with just under five minutes left in the third quarter, the floodgates broke open.

It came on a punt, just after Michigan had gone down, 27-19, on a Buckeye field goal. Ohio State receiver Chris Olave took a free run at junior punter Will Hart and blocked Hart’s kick.

The ball deflected high into the air and directly into the outstretched arms of Buckeye cornerback Sevyn Banks, who took it untouched to the house.

The Wolverines had finally wilted, like they have against Ohio State in 14 of the teams’ last 15 matchups, and from there they could do nothing right, losing, 62-39.

“It was tough,” said senior safety Tyree Kinnel. “We try to stay upbeat throughout the whole game and trust each other and stay in the fight. But I remember a point where it just got out of hand. Slowly devastated us throughout the game. All the yards they were putting up, how easily they were scoring, it was tough. Extremely tough.”

The out-of-hand point may have been the punt, or really any point after that, but the sings of impending trouble were present from the beginning.

Michigan started the game with the ball and a three-and-out, and the Buckeyes promptly drove 43 yards for a score immediately afterward, finishing it off with a touchdown to Olave.

Olave, who entered the game with four catches all season, tacked on another score with 9:08 left in the second quarter, and Ohio State threatened to break the game open when wide receiver Johnnie Dixon III caught a wide-open touchdown to extend the Buckeye lead to 21-6 minutes later.

To these opening blows, the Wolverines had answers.

They scored back with a fade-route touchdown from sophomore wide receiver Nico Collins. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Ohio State kick returner Demario McCall simply dropped the ball and Michigan recovered on the Buckeyes’ nine-yard line. Junior running back Chris Evans caught a wheel route for a touchdown on the next snap, and despite failing to convert on the two-point conversion attempt, the Wolverines were suddenly down just two.

Ohio State drove down to Michigan’s two-yard line twice in its next three offensive possessions, but had to settle for field goals both times.

“We had our opportunities offensively, and you know, the defense started the second half good and held them to a field goal and got a stop, and we had a chance,” Patterson said.

That’s when Olave broke through the Wolverines’ punt protection, and Banks went dancing into the endzone.

Junior quarterback Shea Patterson threw an interception three plays later, and the Buckeyes scored two snaps after that. 

As Kinnel put it, things were out of hand.

“You know, sometimes you get desperate in those types of situations,” Patterson said of his interception. “Wasn’t really trying to force it, I was actually trying to throw the ball out of bounds. Whoever made that play made a good play and hit my elbow.”

One last time, Michigan drove down the field in an effort to battle back, and Collins secured another fade route to chop the deficit back to two scores.

And then Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campell Jr., took the first play on the Buckeyes’ next drive 78 yards to the endzone.

In the end, the statistics are hideous for the Wolverines. They gave up the most points of any regulation game in program history. Ever. They allowed the most yards (567) since coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown have taken over. They gave it all up in their biggest game of the year.

After Campbell’s run, the metaphorical floodgates were completely obliterated.

Ohio State spent the rest of the game scoring and breaking records offensively, while pumping up the crowd and dancing on graves defensively.


As Beilein leaves, an unmistakable legacy is left in his wake

By Aria Gerson and Theo Mackie on May 14, 2019 

The last time the Michigan had to replace its head coach, the program was unrecognizable to those familiar with the current Wolverines.

Michigan in 2007 had barely scraped relevance since the breakup of the Fab Five in 1993. It hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1998 — an appearance later vacated by NCAA sanctions. It lived under the shadow of the football team and a group of recruits who had since been banned from the program.

CJ Lee, a Michigan guard from 2006-09 and current director of program personnel, was there when then-coach Tommy Amaker was fired. Even with Amaker’s uninspiring record, his firing still incited some disappointment. After all, he had helped drag the program out of its sanction-induced low point in the early 2000s.

Lee, though, knew the Wolverines were getting someone good in John Beilein. Lee went to high school in western New York, where Beilein recruited some of his AAU teammates and had seen Beilein’s success at West Virginia. The Beilein he knew of back then was a coach who ran a unique offense and a 1-3-1 zone, a coach with a good reputation but questions about whether he could stick at a high-major program like Michigan.

Twelve years later, when Beilein left the Wolverines to take the helm of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday morning, he was a coach who still ran a unique offense, albeit one of a different vein, but had ditched the zone — and ditched control over his defense, hiring assistants with greater expertise in the area. He was a coach whose reputation had exploded, who hadn’t just succeeded at a high-major program but taken it from no-man’s-land to consistent contender. He was a coach who had become, in some ways, impossible to replace — the unenviable task that now falls on the shoulders of athletic director Warde Manuel.

“The first couple years, people were kinda wondering, does (Beilein) have what it takes?” Lee told The Daily. “And it just shows that his ability to morph, his ability to adapt, his ability to change, his ability to figure out that place and figure out his way of doing things here — it was incredible. And it worked.”

Beilein got Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament in his second year, and the Wolverines have made it in eight of the past nine years — with five Sweet Sixteens and two appearances in the national title game. His performance surpassed even what could have been considered the best-case scenario.

“It goes without saying, he brought Michigan basketball back to prominence,” Lee said. “I would say he restored the image in the hearts and minds of a lot of people, probably in the court of public opinion. Certainly, coach Amaker did a great job in his time, coming out of the sanctions, and then coach Beilein took it to a level where you’re back in the Final Four.”

Zack Novak, a Michigan guard from 2008-12, joined the program in Beilein’s early days. Back then, the team was filled with Amaker holdovers, and Beilein was tasked with not only developing his young players, but getting buy-in from his older ones — a test he passed with flying colors. Then, he began to build the foundation of the Wolverines’ new identity. Novak saw the beginning of that foundation, with Michigan’s NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009. By the time he left in 2012 — with a Big Ten regular-season title and a No. 4 seed in the tournament — he saw a program that finally stood on solid ground.

“From day one, when (Beilein started) recruiting me, the first step was, get back to the NCAA Tournament,” Novak told The Daily on April 13. “But he was very firm that Michigan should be a premier program and we needed to build the foundation to get back to where it should be. And so, I think from day one, he had a vision and he had his guys that bought into the vision.

“And I think you gotta give credit to a lot of the guys who came from coach Amaker, who rolled over. Kind of a difficult situation, right? Two very different styles of playing. And those guys easily could have been cancers on the team and not bought into the vision, and instead they did the opposite. And really set the foundation for what was to come. Now, with that being said, I’m not gonna lie to you and say that I thought we’d be in two national title games in the next 10 years. I think it’s gone a bit beyond what the original vision was.”

From there, Beilein built Michigan into what it is now, all with the perception that he runs a clean program. Beilein is one of the few high-major coaches who is widely believed not to cheat. He instilled his values in every player, from Lee and Novak until now. Former Michigan sports information director Bruce Madej remembered Beilein as someone who always talked about family and community. Even as Beilein began to crave the greater challenge that the NBA would bring, that community was what the Wolverines were to him.

In a way, the NBA is a culmination for Beilein. This is someone who has never held a permanent position as an assistant coach, instead climbing the ladder from high school JV to community college to Division II to mid-major to Michigan. Professional basketball was the one step he had never taken.

“What has happened to John Beilein in his life and in his coaching career has been miraculous, it’s really been magical,” said Jeff Neubauer, the current Fordham coach and a former Beilein assistant at Richmond and West Virginia from 1996-2005. “… Who he has been throughout his life is to take on a massive challenge — most of them were places where people didn’t think he could succeed. So he’s gone to different schools throughout his career and done amazing things over and over. So my speculation would be that this is his opportunity to take on another huge challenge, climb another mountain.”

Now, Beilein is firmly entrenched as a Michigan legend. No matter who you talk to, former players, assistants and people around the program have nary a bad word to say about him — as a person or a coach.

And regardless of what the future holds, Beilein will always be remembered as the coach who brought Michigan back to soaring heights, the coach who firmly implanted a new culture and the coach who did things the right way — in every sense of the word.

“I tell people all the time when they ask me about playing for, working for coach Beilein, is that as good of a basketball coach as he is, he’s a better person,” Lee said. “And I think that, over the last 12 years, the fan base and college basketball in general has got to witness an incredible, incredible human being who happens to be a basketball coach on the sidelines, in Ann Arbor.

“And I really hope that they cherish that. I hope they recognize how special that is to have the human being, the coach, the man, the success. How rare that is, for it all to come together like that. So I just hope that people are appreciative and he is honored for his time, because he did a tremendous job.”

Additional reporting by Ethan Sears



Ethan Sears: Warde Manuel gambled on Juwan Howard. Thursday proved why it was the right move

By Ethan Sears on May 31, 2019

Warde Manuel spoke directly, with certainty and confidence.

“We looked at many,” Manuel said. “Broad scope. I stand here today with my choice.”

Before Juwan Howard had stepped to the podium as Michigan’s new basketball coach and before a question had been asked, Manuel answered the day’s biggest one. Since John Beilein left, a coaching search unfolded and ended last week with Howard, there has been a not-so subtle implication of nepotism that has come with the discussion of Howard.

Howard has the requisite qualifications, it starts, but would he be in this position if not for his association with the Fab Five? Manuel, who has never had a hiring of this magnitude in his hands completely, must be under pressure from donors. From regents. From Jalen Rose and Chris Webber; LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

The athletic director acknowledged as much seconds later, noting Howard’s resonance with the university, its fans and its donors.

But, outside pressures being as they may, this decision was Manuel’s to make. His choice. His gamble.

“There’s a whole lot of bunch of adjectives like that, that have already been used, and that’s fine,” Manuel said. “If I’m gonna take a risk for somebody, they’ll see why I took the risk and the gamble — and all the things you all say about what could possibly happen — with Juwan Howard.”

To be clear, it is a gamble and it does run a risk of failure. So would any other. That is beside the point.

Beilein left the Wolverines with little warning in mid-May — when the coaching carousel had already slowed. The candidate pool, inherently, was thinner than it might have been a month or two earlier. And, even if Manuel had his pick of the lot, it would be impossible to hire another Beilein.

The best coach in the history of the program doesn’t come around often. Particularly not when that coach is Beilein, who ran things in a way unique throughout college basketball.

Howard hasn’t been in college basketball. He isn’t familiar with a world where a slip of the tongue can be a recruiting violation, and admitted as much on Thursday. Even without his ties to the Fab Five, the likelihood that he recruits programs like Mac Irvin Fire, the way his name alone makes heads turn — that makes him inherently antithetical to Beilein.

And that is fine.

Juwan Howard isn’t here to build on John Beilein’s legacy. He’s here to make his own. There are no shortage of basketball reasons to think he can.

Howard comes with endorsements from Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, two names that should carry more weight than his former teammates. He succeeded as an assistant in Miami, unequivocally so. The Heat won titles when they had the requisite talent, and outperformed expectation anyway when they didn’t. Howard was a repeated candidate for NBA job openings for a reason — he’s developed a well-earned reputation as a good basketball mind, and someone who connects with players.

There’s also the intangible — which was on full display Thursday when Howard stepped to the podium and wiped tears from his eyes, needing to gather himself before he started speaking.

Yes, it’s concerning that it may take some time for Howard to get a grasp on the NCAA’s rulebook. And yes, it should raise eyebrows that he answered a question about his basketball philosophy with, “Well, it remains to be seen, fellas, right?”

The rest of his answer, though, speaks to the qualities that got him hired.

“But I can tell you this,” Howard said. “One thing about me, I’m humble. And I don’t have all the answers. We’re gonna try to figure out solutions together. … Players have to be active participants in finding solutions. We will create this identity together. And we will have fun doing it, too.”

All that — the emotion and the attitude, the acknowledgements that he isn’t perfect and the willingness to work on it — makes it believable that Howard will put in the hours to fill the gaps. This is no reunion tour or nostalgia trip, nice as those side benefits may be. Howard was hired because Warde Manuel thinks he can win basketball games, first and foremost.

But don’t get it wrong. This is Manuel’s gamble. The right gamble.



The wins that shaped Michigan’s run

By Abby Snyder on June 26, 2019

Behind every deep tournament run are the wins that shaped the team. It was no different for the Michigan baseball team’s historic – and, at times, improbable – run. They don’t tell this team’s whole story. Nothing could. But they’re a good place to start. The Daily takes a look back of some of this season’s defining wins.

March 8 – Michigan 7, No. 2 UCLA 5 

There’s a lot of talk in sports about “statement wins.” That’s what this was.

In a tough road environment against then-No. 2 UCLA, which spent most of the season as the best team in the country, junior left-hander Tommy Henry struck out ten over six innings of two-run baseball. Michigan scored four runs in the first inning, tacking on two in the third and one more in the eighth for insurance. 

This was the win that showed a flash of what this team could become, what they would become: a national contender. In the face and on the home turf of arguably the toughest competition the Wolverines faced all season, Michigan dominated the game. They never trailed.

It wasn’t the last time the two teams met this season either. 

May 23 – Michigan 5, Illinois 4 

One strike away.

Team 153 was one strike away from an early end to its season, one strike away from not making a postseason appearance at all, one strike away from this magical run. 

Luckily, sophomore designated hitter Jordan Nwogu had other ideas.

Michigan was down, 4-3, to Illinois in the bottom of the ninth inning. A loss to Ohio State the day before meant that falling to the Fighting Illini would send the Wolverines home for good.

Nwogu stepped up to the plate with two on and two out. With Michigan’s season on the line, he launched a two-run double to left center, and the Wolverines walked off with a 5-4 victory.

It was exactly the catalyst they needed. Since that win, the Wolverines have been hot. But it’s more than that. That was the win that introduced them to what Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin called their “playing personality”: free and loose, having fun, and playing to win – not just playing not to lose.

“We saw the end of our season right in front of us,” said senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr during the College World Series. “That kind of made the whole team appreciate every single game that we’ve had together since then. And that’s kind of the bigger picture. It’s not that we’re playing in a Regional, Super Regional, College World Series championship; it’s just that we get another game with each other.”

June 9 – Michigan 4, No. 1 UCLA 2 

UCLA’s lineup was the best in the country. No one had been able to stop them all season. Michigan had as good as lost the game already.

Instead, the Wolverines pulled out a 4-2 victory to head to the College World Series. 

Henry, sick with the flu and pneumonia, and still recovering from the biceps tendonitis that rendered him inconsistent throughout much of the second half of the season, pitched seven innings of two run-baseball — containing a Bruins batting order that seemed practically unstoppable.

Sound familiar?

The first time Michigan played UCLA, it was just a flash of the team they could be. Three months later, they had gone even further.

June 15 – Michigan 5, Texas Tech 3 

The first time Michigan and Texas Tech met, it was proof of how far the Wolverines still had to go to be an Omaha contender. They were swept and outscored 29-10 over three games.

Three months later, the Wolverines were an entirely different team — their bats hot, their pitchers cool and their defense firing on all cylinders. The Red Raiders provided the perfect litmus test: had Michigan really learned from its mistakes, and could it really compete at the highest stage in collegiate baseball?

The answer to both questions was an emphatic yes. The Wolverines got off to a quick start as a sacrifice fly from junior right fielder Jordan Brewer scored Nwogu in the top of the first. They tacked on three more in the third as Kerr launched a two-RBI triple down the right field line and scored on a single from senior third baseman Blake Nelson. 

Texas Tech made it close, scoring two runs in the bottom of the third and adding another in the bottom of the sixth, but Michigan was unshaken. They added a run in the top of the seventh when sophomore center fielder Jesse Franklin scored on an error for insurance, then cruised to a 5-3 victory on the backs of solid pitching from junior right-hander Karl Kauffmann (7 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs) and sophomore right-hander Jeff Criswell (two solid innings of one-hit relief).

The Wolverines had made a statement: they were more than just a Cinderella team, and their run amounted to more than just luck.

Michigan, at long last, was a national contender again.



Hutchins reacts to season ending: ‘It’s the worst day of every coach’s career right now’

By Jared Greenspan on March 13, 2020

In the middle of Thursday’s practice, Carol Hutchins’s phone rang. 

It was Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel. 

Right away, Hutchins knew the phone call wouldn’t be an easy one. 

She was cognizant of the other mandates that had trickled in across the collegiate landscape throughout the day the PAC-12 and ACC had both cancelled all sporting events until further notice. So when Manuel called, Hutchins knew what was coming. 

Manuel’s words, a message relayed from NCAA President Mark Emmert, only confirmed what had grown to be the inevitable. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all remaining NCAA winter and spring championships were cancelled softball included. 

Her players, in an act of blissful ignorance, continued practice as Hutchins digested the news. It was her job to break it to them. The news that this would be their last gathering, that their season was over 23 games in and at least 30 short. 

She stopped practice and pulled her team into their home dugout, symbolically a place of comfort and unity amidst the trying times. A dugout that Hutchins calls “her favorite place in the world,” a dugout those same players wouldn’t be able to convene in as one ever again.

It was an all-too fitting place to cling to whatever last semblance of normalcy was left. 

The team was ready for her. And so Hutchins embarked on what she described as the hardest thing she’s ever had to do as a coach.

“It’s just the worst day of every coach’s career right now, telling their student athletes that they’re done,” Hutchins told The Daily. “Probably the hardest day is the last day of the year and you close your last game. But all 36 of my last days have never compared to this.

“And it’s for every student athlete in the country. Every student athlete is affected, all the support people. Even my managers were crying. They’ve worked so hard. Everybody’s in this together. It’s really hard to put in perspective. Today’s a tragedy, in another day this will be a new normal.”

For the seniors, the news rung especially harrowing. Two days before Saturday, what was meant to be their final home opener, their days as collegiate athletes have been cut short. 

Outfielder Haley Hoogenraad, outfielder Thais Gonzalez, infielder Madison Uden and catcher Abby Skvarce are finished donning the maize and blue for Michigan softball. 

“I just hugged them and told them and that I was proud of them,” Hutchins said. “They were a great senior class. They came a long way from being freshmen and that’s ultimately how you judge people. I’m very proud of those four. They were doing a great job leading us, getting through our ups and downs. I was really proud of them and that’s all I can tell them. My heart breaks most for them.”

For the players, uncertainty lies ahead. Hutchins doesn’t know how much longer they will be on campus. No one knows much about anything in a situation so fluid and unparalleled. So, as Thursday’s practice culminated and the news reverberated in shockwaves, the team did all they could in such an overwhelming moment rely on each other. 

“I know my team will be together,” Hutchins said. “I’m most concerned for those kids right now. What they need more than anything is to be with each other. We need to be together, that’s what we can do in times of grief.”

While the situation is unprecedented, Hutchins has no doubt her team will handle it with grace. 

“Our kids are well-equipped. They deal with adversity all the time. They deal with loss, they deal with failure. The most important thing they’ve learned is it’s not if you fall down, it’s if you get up. Our kids will get up.

They’ll be strong.”

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