|#10 Michigan (31-7)||36||25||61|
|#16 Syracuse (30-10)||25||31||56|
Syracuse had the mismatch at every position and would exploit Michigan’s smaller guards. Or so they said. Their 2-3 matchup zone would confuse Michigan’s young and inexperienced freshmen. Or so they said. They shut down Indiana in the Sweet 16, a team that beat Michigan twice, so they could easily do the same to Michigan. Or so they said.
Syracuse did all the talking leading up to Saturday’s Final Four matchup, but Michigan had most of the bite on the court, beating the Orange 61-56 to advance to Monday night’s championship game. But it wasn’t the way one would have expected Michigan to win.
The Wolverines’ top three scorers, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Nik Stauskas, were held to a combined 20 points on 5-of-29 shooting. Normally, that kind of production from the big three would have doomed Michigan’s chances, especially in a game of this magnitude, but as has been the case throughout this tournament run, a team effort won out.
In the first half, the unlikely contributions came from the other freshmen, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht, who each hit a pair of big threes to help Michigan pull out to an 11-point halftime lead. The pair finished the game with a combined 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Mitch McGary put together his third double-double in the last four games, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and also fueled the Wolverines with a team-high six assists and two blocks.
Burke was held to single digits for the second time in the tournament after scoring at least 15 in every single Big Ten game, but played the role of reliable playmaker against the harassing Syracuse guards. He didn’t try to do too much as he did in some of Michigan’s losses this season, instead making the extra pass to find the open man. He also made big plays on the defensive end, coming up with three steals, none bigger than a steal that resulted in a fast break assist to McGary for a dunk.
Hardaway made just four of his 16 shots from the field, including 3-of-10 from three-point range, but the shots he did make were timely. He scored Michigan’s first basket of the second half, a three that stopped a Syracuse run, and hit another three midway through the second half after the Orange had cut the Michigan lead to four. He also made two big free throws down the stretch, helping Michigan hold onto its lead.
From the start of the game, Michigan seemed ready to take on the zone unlike anything it had seen all season. The Wolverine offense was patient and took care of the ball. Thanks to the big shots hit by LeVert and Albrecht, combined with some good passing by McGary from the high post and a good offensive rebounding performance, Michigan controlled most of the first half. Michigan carried a 11-point lead into the locker room.
At the beginning of the second, Syracuse started slowly chipping away at the lead, cutting it to six by the under-12 timeout and three by the under-eight timeout. Michigan scored five straight to go back ahead by eight, but the Orange weren’t out of it yet. Two straight dunks cut it to four, and after the teams traded free throws, Syracuse forwards James Southerland hit a three to pull within one at 57-56.
Burke was sent to the free throw line where he made one of two, and with 19 seconds left Jordan Morgan stepped in front of Syracuse guard Brandon Triche to draw a charge. The foul took Triche out of the game, and Jon Horford went to the line where he made one of two. With 15 seconds remaining, Syracuse had one last chance, down by three, but Hardaway rebounded the missed shot and found Morgan for a breakaway dunk to seal the win.
Michigan shot 39.6 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range. While those numbers are lower than the Wolverines’ season and tournament averages, they’re much better than Montana, California, Indiana, and Marquette managed against the Orange in the first two weeks of the tournament.
The Wolverines will remain in Atlanta to face top-seeded Louisville on Monday night for the national championship. The Cardinals beat Wichita State 72-68 in the early game on Saturday.
|Final Game Stats|
|01||Glenn Robinson III*||5-7||0-1||0-0||5||1||6||0||10||0||3||0||0||35|
|10||Tim Hardaway Jr.*||4-16||3-10||2-2||2||4||6||3||13||5||1||0||0||39|