Michigan survives Syracuse despite Burke's off night

12:55 AM, Apr 7, 2013   |    comments
Michigan Wolverines forward Glenn Robinson III, left, celebrates with forward Jon Horford after defeating the Syracuse Orange in the the semifinals during the Final Four at the Georgia Dome. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA - John Beilein is known for his meticulous preparation - cutting his own film, diagramming plays on a coffee table that doubles as a drawing board.

Give him six days to prepare for the vaunted 2-3 zone of Syracuse, and it should have come as no surprise that he had his young but experienced group of Wolverines ready.

Michigan used a combination of crisp passing, timely outside shooting and, mostly, their big man Mitch McGary to methodically pick apart the zone. The team shot 39.6% from the field - but 44% in the first half - en route to a 61-56 win Saturday night in the Georgia Dome.

McGary posted his third double-double of the past four games with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, his NBA draft stock skyrocketing as his production increases. He swatted balls away on the defensive end, pulled down key rebounds and even took the ball up the court occasionally. In short, McGary did it all, and when he couldn't, his fellow big man, redshirt junior Jordan Morgan, stepped in.

Morgan drew a charge call in the final seconds and punctuated the game with a dunk to seal the victory.

Michigan will face the NCAA tournament's overall No. 1 seed, Louisville, Monday night for a chance to win the second national championship in program history. The Wolverines won their lone title in 1989.

Playing in their first Final Four since the Fab Five era, these Wolverines relied on their freshmen, whom they refuse to dub "Fab." (Call them the Fresh Five, if anything.)

For much of the season, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III carried the weight of expectations - and the scoring load. McGary came on late, blossoming over the past month into a reliable frontcourt threat and adding a different dimension to an already potent offense.

Michigan was fortunate he did and continued to play well Saturday because its national player of the year point guard Trey Burke struggled offensively all night long. He didn't score until the final minute of the first half and shot 1-for-8 on the night, while missing a free throw with the Wolverines clinging to a late two-point lead. Michigan received 21 points from its bench, and Tim Hardaway Jr. and Robinson - the sons with the famous fathers - added 23 combined.

Syracuse's offense kept the Orange in the game until the final seconds, led by C.J. Fair's 22 points. Fair had hoped to follow a fellow Baltimore native - Carmelo Anthony - in leading Syracuse to another national championship 10 years after its last. Instead, his heroic effort fell short, in large part because of a lack of production from two of the Orange's other key contributors all season. Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland combined for just seven points in what could be the final game of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's illustrious career, if he chooses to retire this offseason.

Beilein had been 0-for-9 against Boeheim in his career entering Saturday.

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