Michigan beats Loyola Chicago, 69-57, to reach NCAA Tournament championship game

Michigan beats Loyola Chicago, 69-57, to reach NCAA Tournament championship game

Javier Howell
April 3, 2018

Starting point guard Zavier Simpson struggled throughout, but once MI started to attack things got much easier. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's driving basket pushed the margin to 10. Charles Matthews made a jump shot at the 13:30 mark for MI, cutting the lead to 41-33.

In a few seconds, MI would win the national semifinal at the Alamodome, 69-57, and head to Monday night's championship game.

He didn't hesitate. It was No. 1.

The German power forward had 24 points and 15 rebounds as MI won 69-57 on Saturday night in San Antonio, ending the 11th-seeded Ramblers' Cinderella NCAA tournament run in the Final Four. Point guard Clayton Custer, the MVC player of the year, returns. The other two were Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird.

But Michigan represented their toughest test of the season, having a double-digit win streak of their own to get to this point.

What it means for next season: Moser brings back three starters and will also need some role players to step up.

Rambler center Caleb Krutwig - who scored a team-high 17 points - began the unraveling by throwing an entry pass that sailed too high and too far and went out of bounds.

Wagner hit a three from right in front of the MI bench with 6:50 left to tie it, and moments later the Wolverines were back on top 49-47 when Jordan Poole made two free throws.

Check the scoreboard above for the final score and click on the stats link for game stats.

It honestly doesn't get much better than this.

After several made free throws, Loyola would claw its way back with its own 9-0 run and lead the Wolverines 17-15 with less than six minutes left in the first half. The Wolverines finished the game with a 38-16 spurt. About midway through the first half, the Ramblers had figured out the MI defense just as the MI supporting cast failed to help Wagner. Matthews' eight points and four rebounds also made up for an otherwise-abysmal 9-for-31 first-half display by MI.

"I kept looking possession by possession - we had trouble scoring the first half", Wagner said.

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Michigan's first half was, outside of one area, a bundle of frustration. "It's a lot more fun when the ball goes [in] the net". "It just happened to be like that".

"When I walked off the floor, I was asked what I said to them", Ramblers head coach Porter Moser said. With Michigan struggling offensively, Beilein tried 11 different Wolverines in the first half, including Ibi Watson and Eli Brooks. The Michigan big man had six offensive rebounds and helped will Michigan to 19 second chance points.

"She said she was proud of us", big man Cameron Krutwig said in a wavering voice. "I don't think we had any fastbreak points out of it, but we just stopped them", Beilein said. You don't get there with just luck.

"Their length. They close the gap of opportunity really fast", Moser said. "And I like guys like that".

"The steals were really big, just to stop the possessions", MI coach John Beilein said.

"What I said to them was 'the more you invest in something, the harder it is to give up.' They didn't want to end it".

As for the Ramblers, they have won 14 straight since falling at Bradley 69-67 on January 31. The lead was still eight at 45-37 with 11:25 remaining. Wagner took over for MI, leading the Wolverines on a 20-4 run as they took a 54-47 lead. MI struggled too and, at one point, both teams had as many turnovers as field goals. Ten of those came in the second half, which aided a 21-6 Wolverine run that ended with a Mathews fastbreak dunk.

"We made a concerted effort to take away the 3", Beilein said. "We have veteran leaders that know how to keep us right in situations like that, and we just have a good group that can get things going again". The first is West Region champion and third-seeded MI against South Region champion and 11-seed Loyola-Chicago.

Loyola tied the game at 15 with 6:47 left to play in the first half and proceed to start a run that would take them to a 29-22 halftime lead.

"Sister Jean just said it was a great season", Aundre Jackson said.

Charles Matthews also contributed 17 points and was the only other MI player to score in double figures.