ATLANTA — Throughout the NCAA Tournament, Michigan's sleek offense has forced the issue against some of the game's best defenses. In Saturday's Final Four contest against Syracuse, the Wolverines were grounded.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
But they survived.
Michigan, a 61-56 winner in the late national semifinal Saturday evening, will play for the NCAA championship Monday against Louisville.
The Wolverines were pushed to the final few seconds. Missed free throws prevented them from pulling away, and they too often succumbed to Syracuse's pressure.
But Michigan came up with a big defensive play of its own late. Forward Jordan Morgan stood his ground near the basket as Syracuse guard Brandon Triche drove into the lane. Bodies collided and Morgan got the call — charging on Triche.
That kept the score 58-56 with 19.2 seconds remaining.
Syracuse never led in the second half but battled back from an 11-point halftime deficit, and closed to one point, 57-56, on James Southerland's three-pointer with 41 seconds remaining.
That followed three missed free throws by Michigan's Mitch McGary, and Trey Burke then missed the first of two with 28 seconds to play.
McGary, a late rising star in the NCAA Tournament, was solid otherwise with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Morgan followed with his defensive stand and the Wolverines increased the margin to three, 59-56, on Jon Horford's free throw.
One last gasp for Syracuse. By this point, guards Triche and Michael Carter-Williams had fouled out. Reserve guard Trevor Cooney went to the basket instead of taking a three. He missed and Morgan's run-out slam completed the scoring.
Michigan went to its bench to take a 36-25 halftime lead.
The Wolverines got 16 points from its non-starters, including four three-pointers. Michael Albrecht and Caris LeVert each had two, as Michigan fired away over the Orange's tight 2-3 zone.
Point guard Trey Burke, who has collected several national player of the year honors at the Final Four, had only one bucket ... but it was a dagger: deep three-pointer from about the spot he delivered overtime in the Wolverines' Sweet 16 victory over Kansas. The shot provided the halftime margin and was Michigan's largest lead of the half.
C.J. Fair, who finished with 22, was a difference-maker on a night when few others stepped up for the Orange.