Recap: Wagner powers Michigan into Monday's title game

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News
Loyola forward Aundre Jackson defends a shot by Michigan forward Moritz Wagner in the first half.

Michigan trailed by 10 at two different points in the second half, but Moe Wagner had the game of his life as he sent the Wolverines through to the National Championship Game with a powerful 24-point, 15-rebound performance.

With the 69-57 win, the Wolverines move on to Monday night's championship game against the winner of tonight's Villanova and Kansas showdown.

Michigan has not won a national championship since 1989, the school's lone title.

It was all Wagner and Charles Matthews (17 points) for Michigan through the first half and beyond, but Duncan Robinson and Jordan Poole came up with a couple of timely baskets to help put the Wolverines over the top late in the second half.

The defense also played big down the stretch, as Loyola has trouble sustaining any kind of offense over the game's final 10 minutes. Cameron Krutwig (17 points) was a powerful force inside for Loyola for much of the game, but he seemed to run out of gas down the stretch. Clayton Custer netted 15 for the Ramblers.

If Michigan is going to win a title on Monday night against either Villanova or Kansas, they're going to need Zavier Simpson to play better. The point guard looked lost for much of the game, turning the ball over four times, missing shots in the paint and finishing with zero points.

Wagner puts Michigan on his back

Moe Wagner got an and-1 that capped a 17-2 Michigan run and put the Wolverines up 54-47. Cameron Krutwig was able to get back to work on the inside to trim the Wolverines lead to five, but on the next trip down the floor, Krutwig (15 points) bricked one off the backboard. Wagner made Loyola pay with his 20th and 21st points of the night. Ben Richardson got a bucket for Loyola to cut it back to five, but Wagner hit from the top of the key to stretch the Michigan lead back to eight.

With 2:38 remaining, Michigan leads 59-51.

Wolverines storm back to take the lead

Moritz Wagner didn't pass out of the double team. Instead, he stepped back behind the 3-point line and fired in one from beyond the arc that tied Michigan and Loyola at 47-47. Jordan Poole hit a pair from the charity stripe to put the Wolverines back out in front for the first time since mid-way through the first half. Following a Loyola turnover, Wagner hit Charles Matthews on a backdoor cut for an easy lay-in.

With 5:48 remaining, Michigan is on a 9-0 run and leads 51-47.

Robinson, Poole cut into Loyola lead

Duncan Robinson clapped his hands to get the ball back from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman after he immediately regretted passing up a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound. It turned out to be a good exchange, as Robinson hit and cut the Ramblers lead to 45-42 with 10:06 remaining. Cameron Krutwig answered with a bucket on the other end, and Robinson got another good look the next time down the floor, but he couldn't connect. After the teams exchanged a few empty possessions, Jordan Poole got to the rack and scored.

Loyola called a timeout, leading 47-44 with 7:31 remaining.

Matthews picking up the slack

Charles Matthews got to the hole to cut the Loyola lead to six, but the Ramblers took advantage of a couple of bad possessions by the Michigan offense and stretched their lead to double-digits. Matthews answered by bullying his way to the basket for another bucket. After the Wolverines got a stop, Matthews stayed aggressive and got to the line, where he split the pair to give him 13 points for the night. Aundre Jackson got around Moe Wagner for another bucket in the paint, but Michigan got a big answer from Jaaron Simmons with a corner 3-pointer.

At the 11:25 mark of the second half, Loyola leads 43-37.

Michigan, Loyola trade jabs to start 2nd half

The offense has picked up for the Wolverines, but they're still trailing 36-29 with 15:56 remaining.

Cameron Krutwig started the half by pushing Loyola's lead to double-digits with an and-1. Moe Wagner answered with a ferocious dunk on the other end. Michigan got a few stops before Duncan Robinson finally hit from 3-point land to cut the Ramblers lead to five at 32-27. Ben Richardson answered with a drive to the bucket for a Loyola basket, but Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman finally got his first bucket of the night in transition. Clayton Custer got on the board for Loyola, and Michigan turned it over on a shot-clock violation on the next possession.

Wolverines limp into halftime

It hasn't been pretty.

Despite Moe Wagner's big first half, Michigan trails Loyola 29-22 at halftime.

Wagner has 11 points and 11 rebounds, but the rest of the Wolverines are cold as can be from the field. As a team, Michigan is shooting just 29 percent. They're just 2-for-13 from beyond the arc.

Zavier Simpson has looked rattled at point guard. That appears to have rubbed off on the rest of the team, as Michigan has an uncharacteristic eight turnovers in the first half. If they aren't able to settle in during the second half, they're looking at a short weekend in San Antonio.

Loyola started slow, but they've been better on the offensive end during the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Ramblers have three players (Marques Townes, Cameron Krutwig, Aundre Jackson) that have scored eight points.

Wagner doing all the work for Michigan

Moe Wagner has been Michigan's saving grace. He's got 11 points and nine rebounds, but the rest of his team hasn't pulled it together.

With 3:40 to play in the first half, Loyola has a 21-19 lead.

Loyola got back out in front after a pair of free throws from Cameron Krutwig. After a Charles Matthews miss on the other end, Marques Townes hit a runner off the glass to give the Ramblers a four-point lead. Michigan had gone on a 1-for-10 drought before Moe Wagner got another offensive rebound and bucket. Aundre Jackson answered, but Wagner came back with another offensive board and bucket.

UM, Loyola struggling to find a rhythm

Aundre Jackson was able to get Loyola off a nearly 8-minute long snide without a field goal when he cut behind the Michigan defense for a wide open lay up. After the Wolverines fifth turnover, Marques Townes hit a floater for the Ramblers. Moe Wagner went to work on the glass for a lay-in on the other end to push the Michigan lead back to four. That's been one area Michigan has dominated early on, building a 5-0 advantage in offensive boards.

With 7:53 remaining in the first half, the Wolverines are clinging to a 15-12 lead.

Michigan is shooting 33 percent from the field, while Loyola is shooting 31 percent.

Loyola goes cold, UM goes on a run

Moe Wagner and Charles Matthews each got their second field goals of the night, but the big story right now is that Loyola can't hit a shot. The Ramblers have missed seven straight field goals, and that's led to a 9-0 Michigan run that has the Wolverines on top, 12-4 with 12:38 remaining in the first half.

The Michigan defense is swarming the Loyola shooters, making things very difficult on their opponents, something they've done all season. I'm not sure the Ramblers have seen a defense quite like John Beilein's before.

Wolverines a bit sloppy early

Michigan made the most of an early offensive rebound when Charles Matthews knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing for the game's first bucket. Loyola responded with a bucket on the other end from big man Cameron Krutwig. Marques Townes hit a jumper the next time down to spot Loyola its first lead. The Wolverines have two early turnovers, as Zavier Simpson looks a little bit lost in the offense early on. After starting 1-for-5 from the floor as a team, Moritz Wagner hit from beyond the arc to put Michigan back out in front.

At the 15:43 mark of the first half, the Wolverines have a 6-4 advantage.

Wolverines, Ramblers set to do battle

Michigan is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2013. Loyola-Chicago is back in the Final Four for the first time since winning the whole thing in 1963.

Tonight, the Wolverines will look to end the cinderella run of Sister Jean's team and punch their ticket to the national championship game.

The key to tonight's game will be, once again, Michigan's defensive effort. Loyola can get into the lane and kick the ball out to good shooters beyond the arc, something that's given other teams fits over the course of the Ramblers NCAA Tournament run. The Wolverines are completely capable of shutting that offense down because of their three on-the-ball defending that doesn't allow for a lot of dribble penetration by the other team. If Zavier Simpson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Matthews show up tonight on the defensive end, points are going to be hard to come by for Loyola.

On the offensive end, Matthews has been a beast in this tournament, leading the team with nearly 17 points per game. Matthews been a breath of fresh air for the Wolverines, but John Beilein would also like to see a vintage performance from Mortiz Wagner, who could use his inside-outside scoring ability to overwhelm the Ramblers. If Wagner gets going, watch out.

Tip-off is at 6:09 p.m. from the Alamodome in San Antonio. Stay with Geoff Robinson (@geoffsports) of The Detroit News for all of your live updates.


Michigan vs. Loyola-Chicago

Tip-off: 6:09 p.m. Saturday, Alamodome, San Antonio

TV/radio: TBS/WWJ 950

Records: No. 3 seed Michigan 32-7; No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago 32-5

Up next: Winner advances to Monday’s national championship game against Villanova-Kansas winner.


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