LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Lost in the clamor over of Michigan's precocious freshmen, Eric Riley took his turn in the spotlight last night and delivered the Wolverines to the Southeast Regional final.
Riley scored 15 points and took 10 rebounds to help Michigan squeeze past second-seeded Oklahoma State, 75-72, at Rupp Arena.
Michigan (23-8) will make tomorrow's s regional championship game an all-Big Ten affair. Ohio State earned its way in with an 80-73 victory over North Carolina in last night's first game.
Riley's heroics were necessary after two of Michigan's five starting freshmen, Juwan Howard and Chris Webber, picked up their fourth personal fouls early in the second half.
fTC Riley and freshman point guard Jalen Rose combined for 29 of the Wolverines' 42 second-half points. Rose scored 18 in the second half and finished with 25.
"The reason we're still playing is these two guys to my left and right," Michigan coach Steve Fisher said. "Jalen played 40 minutes and he shouldn't have. But I had to keep him in and he did a great job.
"Riley played like a fourth-year player."
Said Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton: "Riley would be starting at center on most teams in the country. That's an indication of the type team Michigan has."
Fisher can appreciate Riley's contributions better than most. Riley started every game last year for the Wolverines and was second in the Big Ten in rebounding.
"Sometimes it's hard to play second banana to the Fab Five," Fisher said, referring to Michigan's starting freshmen unit. "But he's a solid person. When he's been called on, he's delivered.
"If we didn't have him tonight, we're dead in the water."
As it was, it took some unusual performances for Michigan to outlast the Cowboys (28-8). Riley helped hold Oklahoma State's high scorer, Byron Houston, to a career-low four points on 2-for-14 shooting. Worse yet, Houston committed eight turnovers.
"We knew if we could contain Byron Houston, we could win the game," Rose said, "and we contained Houston."
Without any production from Houston, Oklahoma State had to count on its guards. Corey Williams (25 points) and Sean Sutton (18) almost got the Cowboys to the final eight.
After Michigan opened a seven-point lead with less than a minute to play, Williams hit a pair of three-pointers and Sutton another to cut the deficit to 71-69.
Later, Rose hit one of two free throws for a 74-72, lead and Oklahoma State had the ball with 7.3 seconds remaining.
Sutton tried to pass inside to Williams, but the ball wound up in the hands of Howard. With one second left, Howard hit one last free throw.
In the end, even without its big men for much of the second half, Michigan won out with its size. The Wolverines collected 21 second-chance points, and had 20 offensive rebounds.