Michigan withstood a late rally by Syracuse to defeat the Orange in the Final Four on Saturday at the Georgia Dome, 61-56.
Syracuse had built a 14-9 lead with 12:44 remaining in the first half, but a three-point play by Jon Horford less than two minutes later put the Wolverines back on top, 15-14. The Orange took the lead again off of a Trevor Cooney three-pointer with 10:14 remaining in the first half, but Michigan went on a 21-8 run from there to close the half with a 36-25 lead.
Although Michigan's Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III led the Wolverines with just six points apiece at the half, Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland combined to shoot 3-of-14 from the floor in the first 20 minutes of action. Michigan built a double-digit lead at the half despite star point guard Trey Burke scoring just three points on 1-of-5 shooting.
McGary's rebounding and passing ability was also big for the Wolverines. He notched seven rebounds and four assists in the first half alone. He also added two emphatic blocks.
Less than five minutes into the second half, Syracuse had to call a timeout after McGary's dunk off a feed from Burke. The Wolverines led with 15:08 remaining, 43-32.
The Orange began to inch back into the game after the timeout, though, going on a 10-2 run to trail 45-41 with 11:08 remaining. Leading scorer C.J. Fair, who was one of the few Syracuse players who shot a decent percentage, had 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting at that point.
After Tim Hardaway Jr. responded with a three-pointer, the Orange went on a 4-0 run before Michigan took a timeout with 7:41 remaining, clinging on to a 48-45 lead.
But the Wolverines roared right back, scoring five unanswered points, punctuated by a mid-range jumper by McGary at the center of Syracuse's zone. Syracuse called a timeout with 3:46 remaining, trailing 53-45.
It was only inevitable that the Orange would bounce back once again, going on a 4-0 run to cut the deficit to four points with 1:58 remaining.
But the Wolverines were ultimately able to hold on down the stretch, surviving a nail-biter against Jim Boeheim's squad despite missing four of their last six free throws.
Interestingly enough, Michigan was able to beat Syracuse at its own game, notching 13 offensive rebounds on Saturday night (including five by McGary).
McGary proved to be a difference-maker for the Wolverines, posting 10 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
Fair finished with 22 points on 9-of-20 shooting for the Orange. Carter-Williams had a rough outing, scoring two points and managing just two assists to five turnovers.
Michigan emerged victorious despite Burke scoring just seven points in the game.
East Lansing High School varsity boy's basketball coach Steve Finamore noted the change in strategy for the Wolverines that began paying dividends in the first half:
Steve Finamore @CoachFinamore
Michigan running a 1-4. Hitting the high post, opposite post dives to block, opposite wing slides to corner2013-4-7 02:18:35
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted at the half:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Michigan found a way to beat the zone. It was 6-for-9 against Syracuse's zone when it got a touch in the paint, 5-for-14 when it didn't.2013-4-7 02:16:07
Michigan got hot later in the first half, which helped the Wolverines build a lead, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress offered up his analysis:
Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com highlighted Michigan's advantage on the bench at the half:
Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB
#Michigan bench coming up big w/ 16 pts in 1st half tonight. Previous 4 NCAA games combined Wolverine bench had 26.2013-4-7 02:10:10
Myron Medcalf of ESPN tweeted in the second half:
Myron Medcalf @MedcalfByESPN
Mitch McGary .... and I can't confirm this ... But I've lived in Minnesota long enough to know that the Minnesota Timberwolves will pick you2013-4-7 02:40:59
CBS' Tim Brando didn't pull any punches about a questionable charge call on Brandon Triche toward the end of the game:
Tim Brando @TimBrando
Last sequence for Syracuse was certainly an issue, but the charge on Triche was another horrible call at the end of a critical game.Terrible2013-4-7 03:53:15
ESPN's J.A. Adande wasn't thrilled with this game due to numerous late-game follies:
J.A. Adande @jadande
Missed free throws, lane violation, charging. I con't care if there's an 80-foot game-winner at the buzzer. this can't be called a classic.2013-4-7 03:33:00