Couldn't Get Away From the Big Bad Wolves

The Orange improved on both sides of the court in the second half, but the damage from the first half trickled into the latter half. Full story inside.

Two teams rose to the Final Four this season as 4-seeds.

Merely one of the teams honored as a 1-seed advanced to the Georgia Dome in hopes of a national championship.

Making the most of their trip, the Louisville Cardinals have not been disappointing after being named the nation's top overall seed of this year's NCAA Tournament.

Defeating the 9th-seeded Wichita State Shockers in the game before, the other side of the bracket took to the floor as the 4th-seeded Michigan Wolverines out of the South region met the Syracuse Orange, winners of the East region as a 4-seed as well.

The Orange had already taken down a member of Michigan's conference, the Big Ten, when they sent the Indiana Hoosiers packing in their Sweet 16 match-up.

Conversely, the Wolverines had yet to face a Big East opponent in the bracket with the Villanova Wildcats and Georgetown Hoyas losing in their initial matches.

Heading into the contest, Michigan's depth of scorers from the perimeter as well as freshman forward Mitch McGary's ability to pass the ball from the inside out, were topics of conversation.

The Wolverines walked the walk of that talk in the game, getting the action started in the Georgia Dome with a three by junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., whose father of the same name and revered as a NBA alum was in the stands.

Michigan would keep the advantage past the first six minutes of the game until Syracuse junior forward C.J. Fair connected on back-to-back jumpers, one from distance, to put the Orange up five, 14-9.

But their lead would last for less than three minutes with Wolverines' sophomore forward Jon Horford completing an old-fashioned three-point-play to put his team back ahead of the Orange, 15-14.

Despite three ties in the opening half and Syracuse redshirt-freshman guard Trevor Cooney gaining the lead back for Syracuse off of a connection from long distance, Michigan would expand out to an 11-point divider heading into the break up 36-25.

At halftime, both teams cancelled each other out in numerous categories. They each had 12 points in the paint, three blocks, and two steals.

The separation came from the Wolverines' putting more deep shots through the nylon than the Orange; the Wolverines made six three-pointers to two made by the Orange, a difference of 14 points.

"I thought we got off to a really bad start defensively in the first half," said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. "We just didn't have the movement that we've had. And Michigan took advantage of it."

In the second half, Syracuse would lower their deficit to two possessions on numerous occasions, but missed attempts from long range and the allowance of offensive rebounds to Michigan kept Syracuse at a distance no matter how close they came.

The Wolverines aided the Orange in staying in the game by missing almost as many attempts at the free throw line as those that they made; Michigan made seven and missed six in the second half.

Having went 0-for-4 through more than 39 of the allotted 40 minutes, Syracuse senior forward James Southerland connected with the net on his only made attempt of the game from beyond the arc.

With 41 seconds left on the game clock, the Orange were within one, 57-56, after being down by 11.

In the final 28 seconds, the Orange had two possessions, and thus two opportunities to regain the lead in the most opportune time.

On the first possession, Syracuse senior guard Brandon Triche was called for a charge on the offensive end, resulting in him fouling out of the game.

"I was just trying to make a play for the team," Triche shared. "I probably should have made a better decision. Probably should have pulled up, you know, and pulled up for a jump shot instead of actually taking it all the way down there because I did see him. But I figured, you know, I was already in the air jumping, so i'd just try to make a play for the team."

After Horford went 1-for-2 at the charity stripe, Syracuse still had an opportunity to tie the contest, down 59-56 with 17 seconds remaining.

Cooney, the lone guard left after Triche and sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams each fouled out, took the ball down the outer right side of the paint heavily guarded and put up a difficult shot, one that did not fall into the net.

The Wolverines got out in transition with Hardaway, Jr., ending the game how it started, with a high-percentage make by Michigan. His assist to junior forward Jordan Morgan was jammed into the net to officially keep the Orange from rolling into the national championship game.

"Our offense was not good in the first half or the second half," Boeheim stated. "Second half we got our defense going a lot better and got back in the game in spite of our offense." The Orange had five steals in the latter half, which led to eight points.

"We just became more active," Triche remarked about the difference of the Orange defense from the first half to the second half. "I know for me, I was kind of stagnant in the first half. I probably got about three or four three-pointers hit on my side. Second half, I personally tried to make sure that didn't happen, tried to help and get rebounds."

"We did a good job of coming out and finding the shooters in the second half," Southerland added. "We also did a good job of keeping our hands up and being active and getting rebounds."

On the offensive end, Fair had the biggest impact, taking more shots than any player on either side and making the most, going 9-for-20 to lead all scorers with 22 points. Triche was the only other Syracuse scorer to attain double-digits, ending with 11.

Michigan had three players reach double-digits in points, with Hardaway, Jr., leading the Wolverines with 13, followed by McGary and fellow forward, freshman Glenn Robinson, III, who had 10 apiece.

Syracuse lowered Michigan's makes from 13 in the opening half to eight in the latter half, giving up two three-pointers as opposed to six in the first half.

But allowing the Wolverines to get going early on the offensive end had long-lasting effects on the Orange, who as hard as they fought could not swing the game back in their favor before the final buzzer.

Michigan lives to face Louisville in the title contest back in the Georgia Dome on Monday, April 8th, at approximately 9:23pm ET.


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