'Beautiful to see': Wolverines take down Seminoles in Sweet 16 romp
Indianapolis — What do you get when you put together a strong first-half defensive effort with an offensive clinic in the second half?
Another dominant outing and another trip to the Elite Eight for the Wolverines.
Top-seeded Michigan took advantage of No. 4 Florida State’s miscues, pounded the paint and rolled to its second regional final in four seasons with a 76-58 victory in Sunday’s Sweet 16 matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Michigan (23-4) moves on to face No. 11 UCLA, an 88-78 overtime winner over No. 2 Alabama, Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium for a spot in the Final Four. Tip-off is slated for 9:57 p.m. and the game will be televised on TBS.
“Like every team in the world, this year was tough with COVID,” said sophomore wing Franz Wagner, who finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. “With the (postseason) last year being cut short, we wanted it that much more because of that.
“I think it makes it that much cooler to now be in the Elite Eight.”
Junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. finished with a season-high 14 points, freshman center Hunter Dickinson added 14 points and eight rebounds, and senior guard Chaundee Brown scored 12 off the bench for Michigan. The Wolverines scored 24 points off turnovers, had 50 points in the paint and shot 69.2% from the field (18-for-26) after halftime.
After taking an 11-point lead into halftime, Michigan never let Florida State get within striking distance. The Seminoles tried to chip away at the deficit, but the Wolverines countered with an answer each time to push it back to double digits.
When Florida State used back-to-back 3-pointers — its first makes after an 0-for-9 start from beyond the arc — from Malik Osborne and Anthony Polite to cut it to 41-36, Michigan responded with a three-point play from grad transfer guard Mike Smith and back-to-back baskets from fifth-year senior center Austin Davis to push it to 48-36 with 13:07 remaining.
That sparked a 21-7 flurry that helped the Wolverines pull away as Michigan continued to dissect Florida State’s defense, drive into the lane and make the extra pass underneath. Johns scored off a feed from senior guard Eli Brooks. Davis found Brown for a bucket. By the time Wagner knifed his way to rim for two layups and dumped off a pass to Dickinson for a dunk, it all added up to a commanding 62-43 lead with 6:54 to go.
"We basically knew how they were going to play us all game with fronting the post and switching everything," Wagner said. "We knew what to expect and did that in practice.
"We did a really good job of not allowing them to speed us up and dribble against the switch itself. That's how we got moving and got them to move and to adjust to us. And we attacked our closeouts."
After the Wolverines emptied their bench in the closing minutes, freshman wing Jace Howard converted a three-point play to give them their largest lead, 76-53, with 1:10 remaining.
Osborne scored 12 and M.J. Walker 10 for Florida State (18-7). The Seminoles shot 40% from the floor (24-for-60) and 25% from 3-point range (5-for-20). They also committed 14 turnovers, attempted six free throws to Michigan’s 23, and allowed 11 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points.
“This team executed so well,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Their spacing was unbelievable. They were extremely patient. We had a hard time turning them over. They really, really played off of their big guy (Dickinson). We spent so much time trying to defend Hunter, and they get to their perimeter shooters, when the clock would run down to with about 10 seconds left on the shot clock, they continue to keep staying in their system, and they executed and made plays right toward the end. That's what a good team will do.
“There's no doubt that this team, from an execution standpoint, from a decision-making standpoint, they are playing to who they are. I said prior to the game that the team who would win this game would be the team who was the best version of who they were, and I think they were the best version of Michigan tonight.”
Points were hard to come by in the early stages as the defenses dug in and the two teams were feeling one another out on the offensive end. The Seminoles’ press, switches and length posed some problems for the Wolverines before they used a roller-coaster stretch from Johns to start gaining some traction.
Johns drew a foul and made two free throws, missed a dunk, turned a steal into a fast-break dunk and then raced to beat Florida State’s defense before it could get set with another dunk for a 9-6 lead with 14:26 left in the first half.
Michigan continued to clamp down on defense as a combination of missed shots, fouls and turnovers piled up for Florida State and helped fuel the offense. The Wolverines rattled off a 10-0 run that featured back-to-back 3-pointers from Smith and Brown and an offensive putback from Davis to make it 19-8 at the 10:44 mark.
After Balsa Koprivica snapped the spurt and a four-minute scoring drought for Florida State, Michigan continued to take advantage of turnovers and used second-chance opportunities to widen the gap. Dickinson scored off his own miss and got behind his defender for an uncontested dunk before Brown soared in for an offensive rebound and putback for a 30-17 lead at the 2:47 mark.
Despite making just one basket in the final 4:45 and missing several open long-range looks, the Wolverines took a 32-21 advantage into the break as the Seminoles had as many personal fouls and turnovers (10 each) as made field goals.
Still, it was enough to put Michigan on its way to its fourth Elite Eight since 2013 and 15th appearance in program history.
“Michigan has had a lot of success in the basketball program," said Michigan coach Juwan Howard, who went to three Elite Eights as a player. "It's just beautiful to see that all the hard work is paying off this year.”