Rushed Reactions: #3 Michigan 58, #9 Florida State 54

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 24th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is in Los Angeles for the West Regional this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Michigan is Headed to Its Second Final Four Under John Beilein (USA Today Images)

  1. A Game of Runs. After a first half that was like a tired slog through thick mud, Michigan followed up a Seminoles’ hoop on the first possession with an 11-0 run that spanned two Florida State timeouts and a media timeout and gave the Wolverines 10 points worth of breathing room. The Seminoles then spent most of the rest of the half digging out from that hole, finally getting back within three at the six-minute mark. But just a couple minutes later, a gorgeous hoop by Charles Matthews was followed by a Zavier Simpson layup and a Duncan Robinson three, making a 7-0 run that put the Wolverines back up 10 with just over two minutes remaining. Michigan had to withstand a late Florida State run fueled by their problems at the free throw line, but barring those two runs, the Wolverines would be headed back to Ann Arbor instead of on to San Antonio.
  2. Defense Doesn’t Lose Championships. Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen win on Thursday night was highlighted by beautiful offensive basketball. Tonight? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In a much punchier game, both teams sold out on the defensive end and made things difficult for their opponents. Florida State’s defense forced 11 turnovers, swatted seven shots and forced Michigan into just 31.4 percent shooting from the field, including just 4-of-17 on shots from deep. But as good as Florida State was defensively, the Wolverines were even better. The Seminoles earned seven second chance points and eight points off turnovers. But when forced into the half-court, the Wolverines made them earn every point, forcing drawn-out possessions that often ended in poor looks. And while all this defense may sound like the recipe for a terribly ugly game, it was a hard-fought and high-wire contest that ultimately delivered.
  3. Foul Shooting Issues. Michigan is headed to the Final Four behind a great defense and an offense capable of exploding. But if they have a possible Achilles’ Heel, it was on display in the final two minutes when they struggled to put the game away due to missed free throws. Simpson, in particular, struggles mightily from the line to the tune of 51.8 percent on the season, a serious issue from a guy who handles the ball so often and well. He missed the front-end of a one-and-one and went just 1-of-3 down the stretch. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also missed a front-end and it took Robinson knocking down a pair with 21 seconds left to finally put away the Seminoles for good. But, as the stakes increase again next weekend, Michigan’s free throw challenges could be a looming problem.

Star of the Game.¬† Charles Matthews. While I’m torn about putting anyone’s name other than Michigan catalyst Zavier Simpson here, Matthews had a truly incredible game. Against the long and athletic Seminoles, he stood toe-to-toe with them, playing above the rim when needed, pulling down seven boards and even swatting away a couple of shots. He was a force in transition, both on the offensive break and in helping to slow down Florida State’s manys advances. And his beautiful jump-stop and fadeaway jumper in the lane with 3:51 remaining put the Wolverines up 49-44 and sparked a 7-0 run that just about put the game away.

Sights and Sounds. Michigan Road Show. If Thursday night was a highly partisan Michigan crowd, the Staples Center tonight may as well have been decked out entirely in maize and blue. Sure, the Seminoles’ war chant ranged out of one little section of the arena from time to time. But in response to any play the Wolverines made, the crowd seemingly roared as one. And more often that not, it was the chant of “Let’s Go Blue” that resounded.

Michigan Holding the Hardware 

Wildcard. The second half was a back and forth chess match with each coach adjusting to the other. That 11-0 run to start the second half out of Michigan came on four layups and one three from a kick-out following an offensive board. It was clear following a first half in which Michigan had only scored eight points in the paint that they had received instructions to get the ball inside. Florida State responded to their struggles on the offensive end by going with a smaller lineup, which worked for a stretch but only strengthened Michigan’s resolve to get it inside. Leonard Hamilton spent most of the second half with a lineup of Phil Cofer, C.J. Walker, Braian Angola, Terance Mann and Trent Forrest, a distinct change from their 18-strong, 10-man rotation philosophy. In the end, the battle between the bench braintrusts was as fascinating as the play on the court at the Staples Center.

Quotable.

  • John Beilein, on his team’s toughness. “I think there’s a false perception of Michigan, that because we have a bunch of kids who are easy to like — they’re great kids, they’re good students, the whole thing, but they’re not tough. That’s not true, they’ve been tough all year long. You don’t win 13 games in the Big Ten and you don’t win four games in four days in the Garden if you’re not tough. They call themselves pit bulls. We talked about this in the pregame: When we get into a fight for a loose ball, we were going to be like that, we’d have that dog in us.”
  • Leonard Hamilton, with not his greatest moment, after the game.

What’s Next?¬†Michigan advances to its eighth Final Four in program history, the second under head coach John Beilein. The Wolverines will take a 13-game winning streak into their battle with this year’s Cinderella in Loyola-Chicago a week from today in the first National Semifinal game in San Antonio. For Florida State, they’re slated to lose only two rotation seniors — Braian Angola and Phil Cofer – pending the college basketball transfer season.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.


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