Michigan’s shooting performance against Oklahoma State in the second half of their 92 – 91 victory Friday was the talk of the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines shot an impressive 16 – 25 (64%) from the field, including 11 – 15 (73.3%) from 3-point range. They were not to be outdone in their second round matchup against the No. 2 seed Louisville Cardinals.
Michigan outdid themselves with a scorching 63 percent from the field in the second half in their 73 – 69 win over the Cardinals to advance to next week’s Sweet Sixteen.
The game was either tied or saw U of L in control for the entire first half. Michigan tied the score at 28 on a Moritz Wagner Layup with 1:39 left in the half, but the Cards used an 8 – 0 run to close out the half with a 36 – 28 lead. Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel made back-to-back threes to put the Cards ahead by six and then Adel made two free throws to end the half.
Mitchell and Adel led the Cardinals in scoring with 19 and 16 respectively. Mitchell also finished with seven rebounds and five assists. Adel had the play of the game with a monster dunk over Michigan’s D.J. Wilson that brought the U of L fans to their feet.
The Cards increased their lead to 47 – 38 in the first part of the second half, but Michigan kept clawing their way back into the game, eventually taking their first lead at 53 – 51 with 8:54 left.
Just as U of L made Norbertas Giga look like an NBA player in their first game (30 points), they did the same with Michigan’s Moritz Wagner. He could not be stopped the entire game as he finished with a career-high 26 points on 11 – 14 shooting.
The goal coming into the game was to stop Michigan’s 3-point attack. Mission accomplished as the Cards held Michigan to 6 – 17 for 35.3 percent. “We wanted to hold the three down. We did it. We wanted to attack inside. We did it,” Rick Pitino said. “They were just a better team down the stretch, a little more experience.”
John Beilein, one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball, developed a solid game plan for his team. Mangok Mathiang spoke about what Michigan was able to do on offense when the outside shot was not there saying, “Because they shoot the ball so well, the plan was to basically try to switch everything. And once they seen that they try to take advantage of our guards and the big fella, they did a good job of working on getting into the paint.”
U of L cut Michigan’s lead down to two several times in the last minute, but each time Michigan came right back. The first time it was a Derrick Walton Jr. layup that put Michigan back up by four. D. J. Wilson, on two separate occasions, hit two free throws to give Michigan the win.
Mangok Mathiang, playing in his final game for the Cards, had a solid performance with 13 points and 4 rebounds. However, Quentin Snider had one of his worst performances as a Cardinal. Snider finished with no points on 0 – 9 shooting.
Now it is on to next season for Louisville. In many ways this team overachieved against one of the most difficult schedules in the country. They finished the season at 25 – 9 and will have most of its players back next season to go along with a solid incoming recruiting class. Gone are Mangok Mathiang, David Levitch, and Tony Hicks. The biggest question is what Donovan Mitchell will do. Does he stay or does he go to the pros? If the past several weeks are any indication, then he needs to come back to develop his game some more. If he does come back, then the sky is the limit for next season’s team.
Although the Cardinals will have to stew on this loss for an entire summer, Pitino couldn’t have been more proud of his team. “As a coach, you can never complain when you give great effort,” said Pitino. “All year, it’s been very tough on the whole team to focus in mentally on the little things that make a great defensive team. That being said, we played the toughest schedule in the nation, finished 25 – 9. Couldn’t be prouder of the guys”
- Louisville is now 12 – 1 all-time in their third appearance as a No. 2 seed. The previous two both resulted in an NCAA title (1980, 1986)
- Louisville is now 3 – 1 against Michigan in its history. Their previous win was in the 2013 National Championship.