The battle of elite points guard lived up to the hype as No. 7 seed Michigan and senior Derrick Walton Jr. outlasted No. 10 seed Oklahoma State and sophomore Jawun Evans for a 92-91 win during a first-round game Friday afternoon in the Midwest Region.
Both guards flirted with triple-doubles in this NCAA Tournament game in Indianapolis, but it was Walton and the Wolverines who continued their stretch of inspired play after a scare during last week involving the team plane. D.J. Wilson made the game-clinching free throws with 3.7 seconds left for Michigan as Evans buried a three-pointer as time expired to make it the one-point difference.
Michigan (25-11) was led by Walton as he finished with 26 points, 11 assists and five rebounds as the Wolverines shot a blistering 55 percent (16-for-29) from three-point range. At one point in the second half, the Wolverines were 11-for-15 in the half from three-point range as their ability to hit the long ball changed the game.
Continuing to look like one of the elite floor leaders in college basketball, Walton was once again matched against a very good counterpart and outplayed that player while getting his team the win. During Michigan’s recent six-game winning streak, Walton is averaging 21 points, 8.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game as he’s now become one of the tournament’s dangerous players.
Wilson added 19 points for the Wolverines while Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman each had 16 points to help form a balanced Michigan attack.
Oklahoma State (20-13) had a solid game from Evans as he totaled 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Although Evans was close to a triple-double he was only 10-for-26 from the field as he had a tough time getting some shots to fall around the rim. Jeffrey Carroll added 19 points while senior guard Phil Forte III added 12 points in his final college game. Davon Dillard also added 12 points for the Cowboys while Leyton Hammonds added 10 points.
Although Oklahoma State’s offense was once again good enough to keep them in this one, their perimeter defense allowed Michigan a number of easy different looks as the Cowboys lost another close game to a good team with a good offense.
Michigan moves on to face No. 2 seed Louisville in the second round of the Midwest Region on Sunday after the Cardinals ran past No. 15 seed Jacksonville State. The Wolverines have won eight of their last night games overall, including last week’s Big Ten Tournament title.
If Walton continues to play at an elite level and the Wolverines continue to stay motivated then they are going to be a dangerous team if Louisville advances. That could be one of the better second-round matchups in the tournament as Walton will go against some more high-quality guards in Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider for the Cardinals.