Duncan Robinson, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Zavier Simpson and Jordan Poole
Takeaways from Michigan’s victory over Loyola-Chicago in the national semifinals on Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Michigan would not be in Monday night’s championship game without junior Moritz Wagner, who scored 24 points and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds and sparked the decisive 12-0 run in the second half that sent the Wolverines into the title game for the first time since 2013. Wagner scored eight straight points at the end of the run as Michigan turned a 47-42 deficit into a 54-47 lead, one they would not relinquish.
“He’s a special kid,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I’ve been coaching him for a long time and he’s going to go in that special category with a few other guys who are probably wondering who they are. He’s one of them.”
If the Wolverines get the same thing on Monday – regardless of opponent – it could be cutting down the nets and getting Beilein his first national title.
Wolverines player talks about his 17-point performance in team's 69-57 Final Four victory over the Ramblers.
Charles in charge
When everyone was struggling to make shots early, Charles Matthews was the one attacking the basket and getting to the rim. He had eight in the first half, and early in the second half, when Loyola-Chicago was on the verge of pulling away, Matthews hit back-to-back jumpers that kept things close and allowed the Wolverines to rally.
The performance of Wagner was outstanding, but on a night when Muhamad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was just 2-for-11 and there wasn’t much offense outside of a couple threes from Duncan Robinson, Matthews as the one that supplemented Wagner enough to get the victory.
Michigan trailed by seven at halftime, and when they got to the locker room, freshman Jordan Poole and sophomore Zavier Simpson were some of the most vocal, proving the Wolverines have the leadership at every level.
“Coach Beilein came in and told us that we did not play good basketball at all,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “That message resonated with us. Jordan, Zavier and everybody else was saying that this was some of the worst basketball we had played all year. We came out in the second half with a chip on our shoulders ready to win.”
The Wolverines had a hard time shooting the ball in the first half, making just 9-of-31 shots for 29 percent. However, as it has all season, it was the defense that was the difference as Michigan forced Loyola to turn the ball over 17 times, including 11 times in the second half.
“We had one assist and eight turnovers (in the first half),” Beilein said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that stat in any of my teams in the past. I thought it would come around and it did very quickly in the last 10 minutes.”