Michigan Advances to Final Four with Win over FSU, Will Face Loyola-Chicago

Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) shoots against Florida State forward Mfiondu Kabengele (25) during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament regional final Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae Hong)

Jae Hong/Associated Press

The No. 3 Michigan Wolverines punched their ticket to the Final Four on Saturday with a 58-54 win over the ninth-seeded Florida State Seminoles in the Elite Eight at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Michigan’s triumph in the West Regional gave it a Final Four berth for the eighth time in school history, although its trips in 1992 and 1993 were vacated by the NCAA.

The Wolverines will move on to face Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four for a chance to compete for the national title.

Both the Wolverines and Seminoles struggled mightily from the field in a game that featured excellent defense and inconsistent shooting.

Michigan shot just 38.8 percent from the field, while FSU shot 32.0 percent.

The Wolverines also shot a miserable 4-of-22 from three-point range, but they forced 15 Florida State turnovers in the win.

Michigan junior guard Charles Matthews was the best offensive player in the game, as he finished with 17 points. Senior forward Phil Cofer paced the Seminoles with 16 points.

Matthews gave an early indication that Saturday’s game would belong to him, as Michigan’s first points came when he threw down an emphatic dunk:

His high level of play was needed more than usual because junior forward Moritz Wagner never found his rhythm.

Although Wagner finished with 12 points, the second-highest total on the team, he missed all seven of his three-point attempts and did most of his damage at the free-throw line.

According to Nick Baumgardner of the Detroit Free Press, Wagner was clearly unhappy with his play in the first half:

While Wagner was scuffling, Matthews was thriving, as evidenced by this alley-oop finish early in the first half, courtesy of NCAA March Madness:

Florida State led by one with one minute left in the first half, but a pair of free throws from Wagner gave the Wolverines a 27-26 advantage entering halftime.

Legendary ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale expressed his belief that Michigan was fortunate to be in that position:

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that Michigan’s first-half performance Saturday was in stark contrast to what it did in the Sweet 16:

Michigan was undoubtedly the better team early in the second half, as it built a 10-point lead with 14:36 remaining, punctuated by a Duncan Robinson layup.

FSU chipped away and got to within four, but Wagner made what was by far his biggest play of the game to regain some separation for the Wolverines.

Just past the midway point of the half, Wagner battled his way inside and completed an old-fashioned three-point play to stretch the lead back to seven:

Robinson hit a three to extend the lead to 10 with 2:26 remaining, but poor free-throw shooting by the Wolverines kept the Seminoles in it.

PJ Savoy got Florida State within three with 1:17 remaining, and on the heels of a missed free throw by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the Noles had a chance to tie.

Savoy missed another trifecta attempt, however, and Robinson put the game away for Michigan with two clutch free throws with 21 seconds left.

Michigan’s offensive performance left plenty to be desired, and a similar effort may not be enough to beat 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four.

With head coach John Beilein at the helm, though, the Wolverines have a leader who has been to the national championship game, and that type of experience could play a huge role against the Ramblers.