DAYTON, Ohio -- The confidence never wavers, and Michigan is still alive in the NCAA tournament only because of its unshakeable belief that it should just keep shooting.
The Wolverines might have pushed their never-stop-gunning approach close to the breaking point on Wednesday night in the First Four. But Zak Irvin provided yet another example that it’s all right to keep on firing, even when all the evidence is suggesting that you stop.
After spending most of the game watching errant jumpers clang off the rim and letting Tulsa hang around while it dealt with its own offensive issues, the Wolverines hit their final 3-point attempt of the evening at UD Arena, validating their approach in a 67-62 win that sets up a game against No. 6 seed Notre Dame on Friday in the West Region.
That last attempt from Irvin put Michigan right on its season average for attempts from beyond the arc, and the junior forward's make with 54 seconds left put his team ahead for good. Michigan finished 6-of-25 from 3-point range -- 24 percent -- a mark it shot worse than just three times all season while putting up the second-most attempts of any team in the tournament field.
Irvin had attempted just four of those shots from long distance against the Golden Hurricane, but like everybody else on the Michigan roster, he had the green light to take the most critical shot of the game and the complete faith of a coach (John Beilein) who wants his players to have the courage to keep on shooting.
"We always tell each other," said Irvin, "no matter how many we miss, the next one is going to fall."
Obviously that paid off when it mattered most Wednesday night, but Michigan isn’t likely to survive for long unless it starts connecting on something closer to the 38 percent rate it posted overall entering the tournament. If the Wolverines get on a roll from deep, though, they’ll suddenly be a threat to just about anybody in their way -- starting with the Fighting Irish.