Wolverines get past Seminoles
By GREG BEACHAM
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — With more defensive will than shooting skill, Michigan muscled its way back to the Final Four.
Charles Matthews scored 17 points and Michigan earned its first Final Four berth since 2013 with a 58-54 victory over Florida State on Saturday night in the West Region final.
Moe Wagner added 12 points as the Wolverines (32-7) earned their 13th consecutive victory by persevering through a defense-dominated second half and holding off a late charge from the Seminoles (23-12), who had already knocked off three higher-seeded opponents on their school’s longest NCAA Tournament run since 1993.
With tenacious defense and just enough made free throws down the stretch, Michigan hung on and advanced to San Antonio, Texas, next weekend to face the underdog heroes of Loyola-Chicago (32-5), who stunned the sport by winning the South Region.
Phil Cofer scored 16 points for the ninth-seeded Seminoles (23-13), who couldn’t match their late rally past top-seeded Xavier last week because they simply couldn’t score consistently, going 7 for 30 from the field in the second half.
Then again, the Wolverines didn’t light it up against Florida State’s defense either, going 4 for 22 on 3-pointers.
Michigan nursed a small lead throughout the second half, but P.J. Savoy trimmed the lead to 55-52 on a 3-pointer with 1:17 to play.
With Michigan fans holding their breath, Savoy then missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer and two more 3-pointers in the final minute, including a final shot under pressure with 12 seconds left.
With Michigan up by four, Florida State allowed the Wolverines to dribble out the clock without fouling again.
Michigan’s Zavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson combined to hit three free throws in the final minute to keep Michigan ahead.
The Wolverines discovered early on that they wouldn’t be able to run away from the Seminoles with the same ease they used in the Sweet Sixteen to dispatch Texas A&M, scoring 99 points on nearly 62 percent shooting.
Instead, defense and turnovers dominated the regional final in the first half, which ended with Michigan up 27-26 despite managing only one field goal and missing four free throws in the final 8 ¢ minutes. Cofer scored Florida State’s only two baskets in the final 7 ¢ minutes while the teams combined for 22 turnovers in the first half.
Florida State managed only two points in a 10 ¢-minute stretch spanning halftime, and Michigan took a 10-point lead before Cofer led the Seminoles back into it.