ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Trey Burke and Michigan had the perfect response for
everyone who said they were too young or not tough enough to make it all the
way to Atlanta.
The championship trophy for the South Region is headed back to Ann Arbor,
while another fabulous group of young Wolverines is going to the Final Four.
Led by Burke and sharp-shooting guard Nik Stauskas, one of three freshmen
starters, Michigan controlled Florida from start to finish in a 79-59 win
“It means the world — 20 years has passed and we haven’t been on that stage
yet,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., the junior elder statesman in the starting
The last time Michigan made it this far was the Fab Five era of the early
1990s, what until now had been considered the program’s glory years.
Might be time to start rethinking that.
Once they got ahead Sunday, the Wolverines (30-7) maintained a double-digit
lead against the experienced Gators (29-8), who won the regular-season title
in the Southeastern Conference, but lost in a regional final for the third
"We’ve almost become numb to it now. Been here before,” Gators junior center
Patric Young said. “I just really wish we were out there cutting the nets
Stauskas scored 22 points while making all six of his 3-pointers. Burke, the
South Region’s most outstanding player, scored 15 points even while dealing
with some spasms in his upper back, and 6-foot-10 freshman Mitch McGary had
11 points and nine rebounds.
When the game ended, Burke and several of his teammates went to the opposite
side of the court toward Michigan fans behind press row with fingers raised.
Fans were chanting, “It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine!”
And great to be young.
“Seeing it all come together, I don’t what to say,” sixth-year Wolverines
coach John Beilein said. “I’m a little bit speechless.”
Michigan hadn’t reached the Final Four since consecutive finals appearances
in 1992 and 1993, the freshman and sophomore seasons of the Fab Five — Chris
Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
Webber was gone before that team’s 1994 regional final loss to Arkansas
played in the now-demolished Reunion Arena in Dallas, with Rose and Howard
following him to the NBA after that.
With four wins in this NCAA tourney, the Wolverines already have more
tournament victories than their total (three) from the end of the Fab Five
era to this season. They won a game in 1998, and then didn’t even make the
field again until 2009.
Burke is from Columbus, Ohio, and grew up an Ohio State football fan while
rooting for Duke basketball. The sophomore still knew of the Wolverines’
history and isn’t surprised to be back in the Final Four again so quickly
after arriving in Ann Arbor.
“I said it in the summer and the coaches kind of got on me saying we can be
national championship contenders. But that was coming from my heart,” said
Burke, surrounded by the sons of three former NBA players. “I knew once we
put the talent with the toughness and execution, then I knew this team could
be special. We’re coming together at the right time.”
The Wolverines overcame a 14-point deficit in the final 7 minutes against
top seed Kansas two days earlier, getting to overtime after Burke’s long
3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation.
Despite being the only team to make regional finals each of the last three
seasons, the Gators haven’t been to the Final Four since winning consecutive
national titles in 2006 and 2007 for coach Billy Donovan.
Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy, the four-year seniors who came in not long
after those titles, will leave without one of their own. They were part of
the only Gators class to win consecutive outright SEC regular-season
championships, but came up short in the biggest games.
Florida is the first team to make it to three consecutive regional finals
without winning at least one of them, according to STATS LLC. Wyoming lost
in the round of eight from 1947-49, but that stretch ended two years before
the NCAA tournament expanded to more than eight teams.
“I feel more upset for Boynton, (Mike) Rosario and Murphy, who don’t get a
chance and have come so close,” Donovan said. “This one, we didn’t play well
enough or deserve to win.”
Boynton and Will Yeguete had 13 points apiece for the Gators.
The Gators were able to recover from an early deficit against Florida Gulf
Coast for a 62-50 win Friday night on the raised stage at Cowboys Stadium.
It was another story facing Big Blue.
After McGary started the scoring with a layup, Stauskas made a
behind-the-back pass to McGary for a slam before making his first 3-pointer
less than a half-minute after that.
Burke passed to McGary for a layup before driving for one of his own.
McGary’s jumper made it 13-0 only 3:05 into the game.
Stauskas, who was 2 of 12 from 3-point range the first three games of this
NCAA tourney, was on target against the Gators.
The 6-foot-6 guard from Canada put the Wolverines up by 24 points with 4:08
left in the first half after two consecutive 3s from the left corner in a
span of 27 seconds.
Like he did on all of his makes, Stauskas came back down the court with a
smile on his face, sharing the moment with the Wolverines fans who made the
trip to North Texas.
“I can’t even explain the feeling. I was having so much fun,” Stauskas said.
“I’ve been working and dreaming my whole life about something like this. To
finally have it, I have a smile on my face and I’m enjoying the moment.”
Florida missed its first seven shots before Yeguete made a layup more than
31 minutes into the game.
It was a rough finale for Murphy, who twice thought he had easy baskets in
front of him only to have the shots blocked. Murphy had eight rebounds, but
finished 0-of-11 shooting and was scoreless for the first time this season.
Murphy was clearly devastated, staring at the floor with slumped shoulder in
the locker room after the game. “Just missed shots,” Murphy said, barely
loud enough to be heard, and answering in short spurts. “Our defense was
Even with an 11-2 run late in the first half punctuated by Boynton’s
3-pointer, the Gators were still down by 15 with a minute to go in the first
But the Wolverines were able to score even after it appeared that the half
had ended; Burke was already heading off the court pumping his right arm
toward the Michigan fans.
Stauskas was fouled on a 3-point attempt with .4 seconds left and, after
officials reviewed the play, hit two free throws to give the Wolverines a
It was that kind of day for Michigan, and for Florida, as well.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Crying and shaken by the sight of Kevin Ware writhing on
the court, his right leg splintered, Rick Pitino and his Louisville players
had no idea how they were going to pull it together with a half still left
to play and a Final Four berth on the line.
Ware showed them the way.
“I don’t think we could have gathered ourselves — I know I couldn’t have —
if Kevin didn’t say over and over again, ‘Just go win the game,’” Pitino
said. “I don’t think we could have gone in the locker room with a loss after
seeing that. We had to gather ourselves. We couldn’t lose this game for him.
“We just couldn’t.”
With Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng leading the way, the Cardinals
finally shook off their grief early in the second half, erupting for a 13-2
run that Duke was powerless to answer. The 85-63 victory clinched a second
straight trip to the Final Four for the top-seeded Cardinals, who are
determined to win it all for Ware, a New York City native who moved to the
Atlanta area for high school.
The Cardinals (33-5) will play Wichita State in the national semifinals next
Saturday. The ninth-seeded Shockers (30-8) added to their streak of upsets
with a 70-66 victory over Ohio State on Saturday night.
As the final seconds ticked down, Ware’s best friend on the team, Chane
Behanan, put on the guard’s No. 5 jersey and stood at the end of the bench,
screaming. Cardinals fans chanted “Kevin Ware! Kevin Ware!”
“We talked about it every timeout, ‘Get Kevin home,’” Pitino said.
Smith finished with 23 points and earned Most Outstanding Player honors for
the Midwest Region. Siva added 16 while Dieng had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Mason Plumlee had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Duke. But the Blue Devils
(30-6) couldn’t overcome a poor start by Seth Curry, who scored all 12 of
his points in the second half, or their foul trouble.