Final Four Bound: Men's Hoops Uses Hot Start to Swamp Florida
The fourth-seeded University of Michigan men's basketball team (No. 10 AP, No. 11 ESPN/USA Today) advanced to the NCAA Tournament Final Four for the first time in 20 years (1992-93 season) with a 79-59 triumph over third-seeded Florida (No. 14 AP, No. 12 ESPN/USA Today) on Sunday (Mar. 31) inside Cowboys Stadium. Freshman guard Nik Stauskas (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada/St. Mark's School [Mass.]) scored 19 first-half points, including five three-pointers, helping the Wolverines to leads of 13-0 and 23-5 early in the opening half.
In addition to Stauskas' game-high 22 points and career-high six triples, sophomore guard Trey Burke (Columbus, Ohio/Northland HS) finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while freshman forward Mitch McGary (Chesteron, Ind./Brewster Academy [N.H.]) added 11 points and nine rebounds.
U-M shot 30-of-65 (46 percent) from the floor in the game, including 10-of-19 (53 percent) from behind the arc while holding Florida to just 23-of-56 (41 percent) from the field and 2-of-10 (20 percent) from three-point range. The Wolverine defense forced 15 Gator turnovers, including 13 steals, off which it converted 16 points. Michigan also led Florida 21-4 in fastbreak points.
The Wolverines scored the game's first 13 points, on four McGary baskets and a Stauskas triple, until the Gators converted one at the 16:28 mark. Burke then knocked down a three-pointer to maintain U-M's 78-percent shooting mark (7-of-9), and Stauskas followed with a triple to extend the advantage to 18 points (23-5).
Florida cut its deficit down to 14 points over the next three minutes; but after Burke got his own offensive rebound and finished at the rim with a layup, McGary grabbed a steal, and Stauskas drained his third triple on the other end to put Michigan back up 19 (30-11). Then, Stauskas hit two more from downtown, consecutively, to go 5-for-5 from three-point range and give U-M the 41-17 edge (24 points).
Tim Hardaway Jr.
An 11-2 run by the Gators over the next three minutes got them within 15 points, but Burke quickly stole the ball and converted a fastbreak layup. Stauskas made 2-for-3 from the free throw line after getting fouled behind the arc with less than a second on the clock, and Michigan entered the locker room up, 47-30.
U-M went scoreless for the first four minutes out of the break, while the Gators scored six straight to get within 11 points, until senior/junior forward Jordan Morgan (Detroit, Mich./University of Detroit Jesuit) passed the ball out to Stuaskas in the corner for his sixth three-point field goal. After freshman guard Spike Albrecht (Crown Point, Ind./Northfield Mount Hermon Prep [Mass.]) stole the ball on the in-bound pass and laid one in, Stauskas handed it off to junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (Miami, Fla./Palmetto Senior) under the basket for a fastbreak layup on Michigan's next possession to cap an 11-2 run at the 14:38 mark.
The exclamtion point came when Burke found freshman guard Glenn Robinson III (St. John, Ind./Lake Central) at the rim for a thunderous, one-handed alley-oop, before Albrecht converted a fastbreak layup and three-pointer on back-to-back possessions to put the Maize and Blue ahead, 74-53, with 4:21 to play.
The Wolverines will face No. 4 seed Syracuse, a 55-39 winner over Marquette, on Saturday (April 6) for a spot in the national championship game. Tipoff time is still to be announced, and the game will be televised on CBS.