ATLANTA, GA – The Player of the Year made exactly one field goal all night, his backcourt mate missed 12 of his 16 field goal attempts, the team’s three-point specialist didn’t score a single point, and collectively shot just 11-for-20 from the free throw line. So where does all of that leave the Michigan Wolverines?
Incredibly, one victory from a National Championship.
Displaying very little of the offensive skill which made them one of the most explosive teams in the nation, Michigan instead turned to its unheralded defense to upend Syracuse in the second National Semifinal from the Georgia Dome, capturing a 61-56 win. The Wolverines advance to the National Championship game for the first time since 1993, and will look to capture the school’s second title, to accompany the one they brought home to Ann Arbor in 1989.
Michigan took a 36-25 lead into the locker room at halftime, and maintained that margin with a 43-32 advantage in the early minutes of the second half. But Michigan was never able to deliver a knockout punch, as the Orange hung around and gradually chipped away at the deficit. Syracuse pulled to within a single point on a James Southerland three with just 42 seconds left, trailing just 57-56. Syracuse, however, could never get over the hump, as an offensive foul and missed shot in the final half-minute ultimately proved the Orange’s undoing, helping Michigan to hang on despite some very shaky free throw shooting down the stretch.
Freshman Mitch McGary paced Michigan with 10 points and 12 rebounds, with Tim Hardaway, Jr. adding a team-high 13, and Glenn Robinson III scoring 10. Trey Burke had a rough shooting night, with just seven points on 1-for-8 shooting. C.J. Fair led all scorers with 22 points for Syracuse, while Brandon Triche contributed 11.
The loss marked the end of Syracuse’s tenure in the Big East, as they will join the ACC next season. Michigan continues to carry the torch for the Big Ten, who will look to win the conference first men’s basketball National Championship since Michigan State won it all in 2000. The Wolverines will look to get past another Big East squad on Monday night, when they take on the Louisville Cardinals with the title up for grabs.
Kevin Kugler, Bill Raftery and John Thompson called the action on Westwood One Sports.