Michigan Beats Loyola-Chicago in Final Four to Advance to 2018 NCAA Championship

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2018

Michigan's Moritz Wagner (13) celebrates with Charles Matthews (1) during the second half in the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Loyola-Chicago, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Loyola-Chicago's NCAA tournament stay is over. 

On Saturday, the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines halted the No. 11 Ramblers' Cinderella run and emerged with a come-from-behind 69-57 Final Four win at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.  

The Wolverines trailed by 10 points early in the second half as their offense stalled and sputtered through the opening 20 minutes, but a surge down the stretch propelled them to their first national championship game since 2013. 

Moritz Wagner spearheaded Michigan's resurgent effort against the Ramblers' smaller front line and finished  with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

He also sprinkled in a trio of triples, including a clutch conversion from beyond the arc that put Michigan up by eight with 2:57 to go: 

That performance earned the German big man a shoutout from his compatriot, Dirk Nowitzki: 

"I've been coaching a long time," Wolverines head coach John Beilein told TBS' Tracy Wolfson after the win. "He's going to go in a special category with a few other guys who are probably wondering who they are. But he's one of them."

In addition to Wagner, Michigan's comeback was fueled by some lockdown defense.  

Although Loyola-Chicago ran a slew of crisp sets over the first 25 minutes, Michigan eventually clamped down late and gave the Ramblers' ball-handlers no room to operate comfortably on the perimeter. 

As a result, the South Regional champions finished with 17 turnovers and six assists and shot 1-of-10 from beyond the arc. 

Incidentally, it looked like those same woes would doom Michigan early. 

The Wolverines finished the first half with eight turnovers compared to one assist, and the Ramblers disrupted their rhythm on seemingly every trip down the floor as quality guard play proved lacking. 

In fact, Zavier Simpson went scoreless (0-of-6 shooting) with four turnovers while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman managed seven points on 2-of-11 shooting. 

But come winning time, the Wolverines collectively turned it on. They racked up seven dimes and three giveaways in the second half, and they overcame shoddy guard play thanks to big efforts from Wagner and swingman Charles Matthews (17 points). 

Thanks to that awakening, Michigan will now head back to the title game against either No. 1 Kansas or No. 1 Villanova on Monday in search of its first national title since 1989. 

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