Tourney recap: No. 7 Michigan upsets No. 2 Louisville, 73-69
Someone call Hollywood. The Michigan story keeps getting better, as the No. 7 Wolverines are off to the Sweet 16 for the third time in five years after knocking off No. 2 Louisville, 73-69, on Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals were the team that beat Michigan in 2013 title game.
Michigan finished the regular season on a roll, winning six of eight. Then, the program had to overcome the horrors of a plane crash as it headed to the Big Ten tourney. Michigan regrouped and proceeded to win four games in four days and take the league tourney as the No. 8 seed. Now, the Wolverines are off to the Sweet 16. Amazing.
The Wolverines have won 12 of their last 14 games, with the losses being in OT at Minnesota and on a miracle play at Northwestern. Hard to think this team was 14-9 overall and 4-6 in the Big Ten after a home loss to Ohio State on Feb. 4.
This team is a tough matchup with its array of skill, length, athletic ability and shooting touch. No two players better epitomize that than Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson. But it’s senior point man Derrick Walton Jr. who leads the way. Few players are as dialed in as he has been the last couple of months. The tough guy impacts on so many levels, and he did so again Sunday (10 points, seven rebounds, six assists) despite a horrible day from the field.
Top star: Moritz Wagner continues to emerge as one of the nation’s bigger matchup nightmares. On this day, the Big Ten’s version of Dirk Nowitzki tallied a career-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. He can beat you inside, outside or in transition. Few have had a better game in the 2017 NCAA tourney than Wagner did today.
Top stat: 6, turnovers and 3-pointers for Michigan. The former was a big key to victory, while the latter makes the upset all the more impressive.
Top play: D.J. Wilson’s block to seal the win. To be honest, the game was probably over, but Wilson’s block (he had a similar one vs. Purdue in the team’s first game of the Big Ten tourney to force overtime) provided the final dagger that sent Michigan to the Sweet 16. From there, Derrick Walton Jr. picked up the ball and dribbled out the clock.
It was over when: Louisville finished the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 36-28 advantage at the break. And U of L built a nine-point lead, 47-38, 14:45 to go. That is when Michigan went to work, pulling even at 51-51 with 9:16 remaining on two free throws by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. The Wolverines took the lead for good on a Mo Wagner 3-pointer with 6:44 to go. Michigan never looked back and cruised to victory.
Did you see this? John Beilein entered the victorious locker room with a water gun in hand, and proceeded to soak his celebrating players. It was an awesome scene for a team that has experienced so much success after its scary plane accident before take-off to Washington D.C. for the Big Tent tourney.
What’s next? Michigan will take on the winner of No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 11 Rhode Island in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City next Thursday. Win that, and it’s off to the Elite Eight.