ARLINGTON, TX –
Hail to the Victors!
For the first time since the “Fab Five” era 20 years ago, the Michigan Wolverines are headed to the Final Four, after a dominant 79-59 victory over 3rd-seeded Florida in the South Regional Final. Michigan jumped out to a 13-0 lead and never looked back, at one point building a 41-17 advantage late in the first half from which the shell-shocked Gators could never recover. The Wolverines will take on Syracuse in the National Semifinals next Saturday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Michigan’s explosive offense was ignited by a rather unlikely source on Sunday, as freshman guard Nik Stauskas torched the normally-stout Florida defense for 22 points on 6-for-6 shooting from 3-point range. Trey Burke struggled shooting from the field (5-for-16), but contributed a solid all-around game with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Freshman Mitch McGary continued his stellar play in the Tournament, with 11 points and nine rebounds. Kenny Boynton and Will Yeguete each scored 13 for the Gators, but senior center Erik Murphy endured one of the worst games of his career, a scoreless performance on 0-for-11 shooting from the field, though he did pull down eight rebounds. The game was so stunningly lopsided that Michigan head coach John Beilein emptied his bench in the final minutes of regulation.
In a season where the Big Ten was considered the best conference in the nation, it took Michigan’s winning effort to prevent the league from being shut out of the Final Four, following departures by Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State. Similar to the Syracuse team they will meet in the National Semifinals, Michigan had their struggles down the stretch, losing five of their final 10 games before the Tournament, including an embarrassing loss to a Penn State team which was winless in the Big Ten. But the Wolverines re-discovered the rhythm that made them the #1 team in AP National Poll at one point this season, and are now two wins away from the school’s first national championship since 1989.
As for Florida, they were bounced from the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season. The Gators have failed to reach the Final Four since winning their second consecutive national championship in 2007.
Brad Sham and Fran Fraschilla called the action.
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