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April 02, 2018 - Image 1

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michigandaily.com
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Monday, April 2, 2018

ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS OF EDITORIAL FREEDOM

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INDEX
Vol. CXXVII, No. 103
©2018 The Michigan Daily

N E WS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

O PI N I O N . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

A R T S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

S U D O K U . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

CL A S S I F I E DS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

S P O R T S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 B
michigandaily.com

For more stories and coverage, visit

KATELYN MULCAHY/Daily
Design by Jack Silberman

ETHAN WOLFE
Daily Sports Editor

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Down 10 with

14 minutes to go, John Beilein scooped his
jawline and paced the sidelines with his
head down, overlooking his bench. What
happened to his team?

He knew not to take No. 11-seeded Loyola-

Chicago lightly. In his eyes, the Ramblers
weren’t a Cinderella anymore after they made
it to the Sweet Sixteen two weeks ago. But his
Wolverines? After all they’d been through, they
weren’t supposed to be down double-digits,
struggling to buy a bucket in the Final Four.

“We’re not like that where we can go and

just school anybody,” Beilein said. “We’ve got
really good players, don’t get me wrong, but
every team that’s playing right now is playing
because they play great defense.”

It wasn’t until eight minutes later that

Moritz Wagner converted a putback and-one
and flexed his muscles towards his bench
that Beilein griped at. What happened to
his team? Wagner’s and-one — three of
his 24 total points, and one of his 15 total
rebounds — was the nightcap to a 17-2 run
and a 53-47 lead. It was as good of a spurt
as they’ve had all year. That is what a
Beilein-led, March team looks like.

It’s a resiliency that found its footing

and persisted. Michigan (33-7 overall)
willed its way over Loyola (32-6) in front
of nearly 70,000 people at the Alamodome,
69-57. What once seemed an impossibility is
now reality — the Wolverines are playing in
the National Championship against Villanova
on Monday.

The high stakes of the contest — and the

nerves coupled with it — were evident from the
get-go. By the under-eight media timeout in the
first half, sophomore point guard Zavier Simpson,
who has a 2.69 assist-turnover ratio, coughed it up
three times without scoring. Abdur-Rahkman —
who finished 2-for-11 — also felt the pressure, forcing
up seven errant, unfruitful attempts in the first half.
Their efforts headlined one of the Wolverines worst
first half outputs of the season.

“We had eight turnovers in the first half. We were

one (assist) and eight,” Beilein said. “I don’t think
you’ve ever seen one of our teams ever be one assist to
eight turnovers. … We had to adjust to how quickly they
were rotating to some of our action, because they were
switching so much.”

Wagner and redshirt sophomore Charles Matthews

were the lone Wolverines to impress in the first 20 minutes.
Wagner was nearly unstoppable on the boards, collecting a
double-double at the 3:08 mark of the first frame. Matthews’
eight points and four rebounds also made up for an otherwise-
abysmal 9-for-31 first-half display by Michigan.

The Ramblers were able to capitalize marginally through

center Cameron Krutwig, who met Wagner in kind. Krutwig
bullied his way for eight of his 17 total points in the paint in
the first half.

His performance highlighted the Ramblers’ quiet

10-for-24 first-half shooting performance from the
field, as well as 9-for-10 from the free throw line. The
defensive dogfight, a 29-22 halftime advantage for
Loyola, was a snoozer with a Final Four sticker
slapped on top of it.

“I knew they were trying to punch us,”

Wagner said. “First of all, you’ve got to give
them a lot of credit; their set plays are

incredible. Tough to guard. And their big
man does an incredible job down there as a
freshman. So we had to cover that somehow
defensively.

“And I tried to do my job, tried not to foul

and stay solid, build walls and grab rebounds.
And it worked out.”

The second half began as a mirror opposite

to the previous half. Michigan and Loyola
exchanged baskets, with the Wolverines unable
to carve into the deficit.

Then Wagner went to work. He continued his

impressive play with a dunk to open Michigan’s
scoring and two steals from telegraphed passes that
led to baskets. But this time, Wagner was no longer
the only life raft in the Wolverines’ 17-2 run.

Fifth-year senior point guard Jaaron Simmons hit

a corner trey — his first since the first round matchup
against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. Then
freshman guard Jordan Poole, who played just two
minutes against Florida State in the Elite Eight, drove
to the hoop for an unexpected two points. Fifth-year
senior forward Duncan Robinson followed with
a long 3-pointer. The Wolverines were down just
three points with building momentum.

“I just knew it, it had that feeling,” Abdur-

Rahkman said. “One of these times down we
were gonna get a stop, turn it into offense and
keep going and going. We just needed that spark
plug.”

And the run that Michigan needed so

badly became legitimate. Down 47-44 with
6:05 remaining, Wagner calmly corralled a
low-post pass, dribbled to the corner and
knocked down a triple.

Tie game.
Wagner’s villainy wasn’t finished, of

course. He had his and-one putback and
his flex — an exclamation point on the
best game of his life.

“I mean, 24 and 15 — If I need to

explain anything more than that, it’s a
problem,” Simpson said. “That’s what
a leader does.”

A poster reading “Bye Bye Sista”

— a dig at Loyola’s team chaplain
and media sensation, Sister Jean
— flashed to the camera. The
Wolverines’ stout defense made
sure it really was goodbye.

“They did what great

teams do,” said Ramblers
coach Porter Moser. “They
capitalized on that run where
we made six turnovers in a
row.”

It was enough to put

Cinderella — or whoever they
are, if you’re Beilein — to
bed and secure a spot in the
championship.

Maybe you could go back to

March 17 and credit Poole’s
buzzer-beater against Houston
to Michigan’s success. But
when the Wolverines had to
show up, they did. It’s equally
plausible that they were meant
to be here the whole time.

“I feel like we’ve kinda

controlled the games we’ve
played in,” Robinson said. “I
don’t think it’s an accident that
we’re here. We’re playing well at
the right time.”

But it doesn’t matter how it

happened — they made it to the
biggest stage in college basketball. You
don’t get there with just luck.

Michigan
advances to
national
championship

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