Michigan 73, Louisville 69

Submitted by Ace on March 19th, 2017 at 3:57 PM

A sweet victory, indeed. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

As John Beilein delivered his opening statement of the postgame presser, Derrick Walton looked up to the ceiling and mouthed "oh my god."

Michigan won their second instant classic in as many games. Perhaps most remarkable is they went about it in an entirely different way. After making 16 three-pointers against Oklahoma State, the Wolverines were forced by Louisville's aggressive, switching defense to play through their big men. With Derrick Walton struggling to hit his shots, Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson stole the show.

Wagner scored a game-high 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting. In arguably the best performance of his young career, the big man used a dizzying array of post moves to punish mismatches. His biggest bucket of the game came on a move Beilein has wanted to see from him for a long time; off a pick-and-pop, Wagner got his defender to bite on a pump fake at the three-point line, then drove for a layup to give Michigan a six-point lead with 1:18 to go.

"We feed off of him," Walton said. "Because he's not afraid of anything."

Wilson's all-around impact nearly matched that of his German roommate. The last of his 17 points came in the final 20 seconds at the free-throw line, where his perfect four-for-four shooting kept the Cardinals at bay. His third block of the game ended the contest, as Walton plucked Donovan Mitchell's tipped shot out of the air and triumphantly raced into the frontcourt as the clock expired.

"Our play is kinda contagious on the floor," said Wilson. "I feed off his energy and he feeds off mine. Down the stretch when we pulled out the victory, I was as happy as I could possibly be."

Moe Wagner's best game couldn't have come at a better time. [Campredon]

Louisville led for nearly the entire first half. While neither team shot the ball well, ten UL offensive rebounds kept them out in front, and some creative officiating helped them go on an 8-0 run to close the half after Michigan had finally managed to tie it up. At the break, the outlook was bleak.

"The end of the first half I thought was a defining moment for our team," said Beilein. "A team that's not as experienced or doesn't have the poise that we had, they come back and try to win it all right away, but we won every four-minute period until we got ahead in the game."

That meant weathering a tough stretch at the beginning of the second half. Louisville center Mangok Mathiang matched Wagner bucket-for-bucket, and his putback off a missed three-pointer extended the lead to nine with 14:46 left. Then Michigan's offense really got rolling. Three straight baskets by Zak Irvin cut the deficit to three, and a short time later Wilson nailed a pick-and-pop three to get the Wolverines within one.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman knotted the game at 51 with 8:54 to play, hitting two free-throws after taking a hard foul at the rim. While the teams would trade blows, Michigan never trailed again. Wilson worked his way into the paint to give them the lead. The perimeter finally opened up a bit; Wagner knocked down a triple out of a timeout, then Walton followed suit with a signature stepback, looking as if he had no recollection of going 1-for-11 up to that point.

Derrick Walton came up huge when his team needed it most. [Campredon]

Wagner's pump-fake layup looked like it would ice the game, especially when Jaylon Johnson committed an offensive foul on the following possession, but Louisville wasn't done. Irvin coughed up back-to-back turnovers on inbounds as UL turned up the pressure, and a layup by Mitchell, who led the Cardinals with 19 points, cut the deficit to two as hearts jumped into throats and stomachs churned.

That was Walton's cue. Michigan's unflappable leader hadn't made a shot at the rim all afternoon, but when he got a step on his defender, he didn't hesitate to go up strong over Deng Adel for a layup.

Mitchell would get two more layups, but each one was answered by Wilson free throws. Wilson and Wagner embraced after the game-sealing block to send Michigan to the Sweet Sixteen.

"We're very close," said Wagner. "It's beautiful seeing each other be successful."

It sure is.



March 19th, 2017 at 10:22 PM ^

This Michigan team is very good in winning time. A lot of our recent games have we've been down early in the 2nd half, tie it up by the 10:00 minute mark, then take the lead and never relinquish it.


March 19th, 2017 at 10:55 PM ^

said at the half that the strategy was to wear out Walton and make sure he didn't get going, and force Michigan to beat them with 2-point shots.

Pretty close, except Walton did not wear out and finished 2 for his last 2 including an incredible shot high off the glass over the shot blockers and a huge 3.  Otherwise, Michigan did beat them with 2 point shots and were held somewhat in check from 3. 

Michigan seems to have a way to win even when Walton doesn't score much, or when Wagner doesn't play much, or whatever. 

Going somewhat unnoticed is pretty decent defense late in games and continued denial of 3 point shots.


March 21st, 2017 at 12:16 PM ^

the majority of mgoblog readers admitted that Coach Beilein shouldn't be fired? It was great!

I mean seriously guys. I'm not saying at all that I believed Michigan would beat Louisville in the tournament after winning the Big10 tournament, but during the tough days next year, can we try to chill on the "Fire Beilein" talk, please?

I say now what I said then: This is a good man and an excellent coach. I want him to coach my team as long as he wants to, and (and I mean this) I don't really care about the outcomes. Of course, that's easy to say, as I think we'll always be at least pretty decent with coach, and we'll have some great teams as well. I'm happy to stick with that in order to have a guy like John Beilein representing my school.

Go Blue!


Blue in PA

March 20th, 2017 at 8:18 AM ^

Well, not only did someone wake Mo up.... but he woke up with vengeance!


Duke is easy to hate, but at least Coach K has enough class to recognize and commend his opponent gracfully.  What a prick Rick Petino is..... 




March 20th, 2017 at 10:00 AM ^

Some thoughts.....

The hires Washington and Donlon....  are these huge dividends we are seeing from these hires???   Every starter has drastically improved..... Rahk has quietly become a money player like Dumars, thats efficient and consistent.  Even Robinson off bench...his D has improved.  Only it appears Donnal hasn't.

I confess, that early in the season, I couldn't bear to watch these guys... Id yell at the TV in frustration, especially Donnal, and thought to myself, we will be soft until he is gone. Then at the 3/4 mark of season, I saw them become a team, one that has a real identity, that can win it all.  Every starter has drastically improved, and the team plays in harmony.  All five contribute, and as the saying goes, a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and Rahk was that for awhile, but his game stepped up, and we are seeing how good these guys are.  Lost in Walton's massive surge is Rahk's performance.

And yesterday, wow, Wagner is becoming an animal.  More than a year ago, I thought he was our best player, and I was ridiculed for saying so... he got there and for a time, he was unquestioned as so, but now I wonder if its Wilson, or Irvin, or Rahk, or Walton.  

And after that plane wreck happened... I did associate the mental event as something that maybe the team rallies around subconsciously, just as they did when Bo canned Frieder the eve of tourney.    This team can win it all.