Sunday, March 25, 2018

Wolverines create on both ends to return to the Final Four for the second time this decade

Photo Credit: Richard Mackson- USA TODAY Sports

By: Devin Larkins
Twitter: @devin_larkins

LOS ANGELES— Turnovers were the theme on a brisk Saturday night in Los Angeles. The third-seeded Michigan Wolverines created three early turnovers and made three of their first four shots on their way to a 58-54 win over the ninth-seeded Florida State Seminoles (23-12).

Sophomore guard Charles Mathews was the leading contributor to the Wolverine start. Matthews scored more than half of their points to begin the game— his biggest early was an alley-oop catch from junior forward Moritz Wagner.

The Seminoles would not be outdone in the first half. They scored quiet chip points here and there. FSU had six players contributed points in half one. The bench played a role in allowing the Seminoles to stay ahead most of the first. Scoring eleven of their first period points.

This consistent play soon stop as the would go scoreless for the last 4:41 of the half. Michigan had the slight edge at half-time, leading by a score of 27-26. 

As in the first half, Michigan came out in the second with energy. Matthews finished with 17 points and eight rebounds and came out with precision from long range and grabbed rebounds on both the offensive and defensive end. 

“Think whenever you have guys that are outstanding three-point shooters, that sometimes becomes the equalizer,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We defended them as well as we could. But there were about three or four occasions there late where they knocked down some three pointers.”

Both teams struggled tremendously with shooting in the second half, 23.3 percent on field goals and 16.7 percent for three-pointers for FSU and Michigan,respectively. Defense ruled the latter half with a combined four blocks and six steals just in the second half. 

There were two individual bright spots for FSU– senior forward Phil Cofer and freshman Ike Obiagu. Cofer finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds and Obiagu blocked three shots in seven minutes of play.

FSU went on another field goal drought over seven game minutes late in the second half. Michigan took advantage of the funk and gained a 10-point lead in the same amount of time. 

“They came out and only shot 26% in the second half. So we've got a really good defensive team” said Michigan coach John Beilein.

The Seminoles got the lead down to two points with big three point shot by junior guard P.J. Savoy with 1:16 to play and a tip-in layup by Cofer. Yet, this proved to be too much time without a basket and too little offensive production for FSU to overcome.

What’s Next:

Michigan moves along to the Final Four to take on the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (32-5) on March 31st in San Antonio. This marks the ninth appearance Final Four for Michigan, the third in last five years. For Loyola, this will be its first time in the Final Four in 55 years. They advanced that year winning the 1963 NCAA Tournament.