It's been the story of Michigan's year, fight and never quit. That's exactly what the Wolverines did on Sunday as it advances to the Sweet Sixteen after beating Louisville 73-69 on Sunday.
In a tense few minutes of action in the second half, U-M center Moritz Wagner, who had essentially zero impact against Oklahoma State, took control of the game and could be considered the hero of the game. Wagner would finish the game with 26 points.
Hitting the front end of a one-and-one as well as a layup, the Wolverines found itself with a four-point lead with a minute left to play in regulation. Louisville would steal the inbound pass to draw the game within two.
Derrick Walton Jr. took the ball up the court, cleared everyone out of the way and took it to the hoop for the score, bringing U-M's lead to 69-65 with 23 seconds left of the clock. A layup by the Cardinals' Donovan Mitchell drew Louisville within two, with D.J. converting two free-throws on the other end to bring the U-M out by four again. Mitchell would hit another layup with Wilson hitting both free throws once again.
It would be enough to put the Cardinals away.
Coming out of the half trailing, U-M found a way to claw its way back into the game, with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman converting a pair of free throws to tie the game at 51 with nine minutes left. After a Cardinals miss, Abdur-Rahkman would find a fortuitous offensive rebound fall his way for an easy putback to take the lead.
While the three-pointer was the key to success against Oklahoma State, the Wolverines found success attacking the bucket instead. As soon as you thought that U-M would stray away from the three-pointer, crucial threes by Wagner and Walton Jr. put the Wolverines in the lead. While trading buckets, Wagner converted one free throw to make U-M's lead 64-59 with 3:30 left.
The Wolverines had been discussing all weekend that the Cardinals' length would be an issue for them -- it certainly came as advertised. In the first half, U-M appeared to be out matched in the post, with the size of Louisville's centers almost being too much for Wilson and Wagner. Those issues reared its ugly head in the first half, with the Cardinals securing 10 offensive rebounds.
Those offensive rebounds played a major factor in Louisville taking a 36-28 lead into the half.
What U-M lacked in contested size from their big men, it made up with athleticism. Wilson, Wagner and Mark Donnal all had effective halves being able to move inside and being able to draw fouls. With the energy high and the big men overmatched, the Wolverines kept fighting. Wagner led all Wolverine scorers with nine points, Wilson added six.
U-M were able to tie the game at 28 with a minute left in the half thanks to a layup by Wagner, but an 8-0 run by Louisville broke things open with the Wolverines playing sloppy basketball.
Walton Jr. had to sit the final minutes of the first stanza due to foul trouble when he was called for a reach-in foul after appearing to get all ball. Wagner suffered a similar fate when the officials called for a reach-in foul.