When Trey Burke looks tight, it's not good news for Michigan - and that's how the sophomore point guard started in Saturday night's Final Four tilt against Syracuse, missing badly on his first three attempts. His teammates joined him, hitting just one of their first six three-point attempts.
Michigan took over in the second 10 minutes to race to a 36-25 lead, and the Wolverines held on to win, 61-56 for the right to play Louisville for a national championship Monday night.
Syracuse's 2-3 zone was as good as advertised early. The Orange got their hands on shots and forced U-M to play long-ball almost exclusively. Freshman Nik Stauskas missed his first two on solid looks from the corner, and Syracuse guard C.J. Fair helped the Orange take advantage. He was outstanding on the offensive end, scoring six straight for the Orange and nine in the first half.
Michigan fell behind 14-9 when freshman Caris LeVert hit one of the biggest buckets of the game, a triple that cut it to 14-12. He made another from the corner to make it 20-17 in favor of the Wolverines, and - after a Jordan Morgan free throw - freshman point guard Spike Albrecht tripled from the corner to make it 24-17, forcing a Syracuse timeout.
The reserves continued to help Michigan pull away in front of a largely pro-U-M crowd. Albrecht nailed a long triple from the top with the shot clock winding down to make it 28-21. Then they worked through the high post, McGary no-looking to Glenn Robinson III, and got a free throw from McGary to make it 31-21 at 2:30.
Robinson's jumper inside the top of the key pushed the lead back to 10 after a Syracuse score inside. Burke then finally heated up after another Orange drive and finish, nailing a triple from the top to push the lead to 11 - and that's how the first half ended.
Coming into the game, Syracuse opponents had suffered 67 turnovers and made just 61 field goals in the tournament. Michigan suffered just two turnovers vs. 13 field goals in the half. The Wolverines went 5-for-11 from long range after starting 1-for-6.
Albrecht, LeVert, McGary and Robinson III led Michigan with six points each in the first half. Hardaway added five points and four assists, while McGary notched seven rebounds, Robinson four offensive caroms and Burke four on the defensive end.
Michigan started the second half slowly, while Fair picked up where he left off. The Wolverines went 0-for 4 to start the half and Fair scored four straight.
Hardaway countered with a triple to slow the bleeding, but Syracuse continued to pound away inside. The Orange cut it to 39-32 on a three-point play by Rakeem Christmas.
A McGary pass off the bounce to Robinson for a slam and a steal by Burke, and a two-handed jam in transition by McGary quickly pushed the lead back to 11 at 15:08. The Michigan crowd turned it up another notch at the timeout, creating a deafening environment.
LeVert answerd another mini-run with a drive and finish, but gave it back on a finish by Brandon Triche at the other end. It was 45-37 at 13:00 when the game took a turn. McGary hauled in a rebound but was stripped by Fair - McGary picked up his third foul with 12:35 remaining and went to the bench with the Wolverines up only six.
A Fair jumper from the wing made it 45-41 Wolverines following two long misses from Burke and Hardaway. The Orange continued to pound away on the glass, and U-M continued to struggle on the offensive end. Hardaway finally ended a drought with a triple from the top that made it 48-41 at 9:00, but Syracuse scored four straight again - fair another jumper from the corner - to make it 48-45 with 7:41 remaining.
The Wolverines took a timeout looking completely out of synch offensively. They went ice cold until Burke hit a free throw at 5:49 to make it 49-45. Robinson's tip of Burke's short miss made it 51-45 with 5:00 left - McGary's elbow jumper pushed it back to eight, 53-45, at 3:46.
Michigan then got careless with the ball, and Syracuse made the Wolverines pay. Two turnovers resulted in four points, and it was down to four with 1:51. U-M struggled to inbound the ball and looked apprehensive, as though they pulled a hamstring while approaching the finish line.
Hardaway's two free throws at 1:19 pushed the lead back to six, and an offensive foul on the other end - the fifth on Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams (two points) - gave U-M the ball back, but Albrecht missed the front end of an one-and-one. Syracuse countered with two free throws to make it 55-51 with exactly 1:00 to go.
Then it became about free throws, just as it did against Indiana. McGary had three chances to make two due to a lane violation, but couldn't convert. James Southerland nailed a three. Burke made one of two with 28.1 seconds remaining. Morgan then took a charge on Brandon Triche, his second of the game, with 19.2 seconds remaining.
Jon Horford was then fouled with 17.9 seconds left. He missed the first, made the second. U-M held at the other end and Morgan capped a 61-56 win with an emphatic dunk.
Hardaway scored 13 to lead the Wolverines, who will play Louisville Monday night for the national title. McGary added 10 points and 12 rebounds and Robinson 10.