This Saturday evening we witnessed four outstanding teams left standing in this tournament. Wichita State vs. Louisville was a fantastic first game. Then two of the most talented teams in college basketball were on display in the Syracuse vs. Michigan matchup!
Wichita State vs. Louisville
This game was a fantastic game to kick off Saturday's Final Four action. The Wichita State Shockers were ready to shock and the basketball world and jumped out to an early 8-0 lead on the Cardinals. Wichita State, which already defeated number one seed Gonzaga and number two seeded Ohio State, proved they were not your average Cinderella. Louisville quickly responded with a run which set the stage for a great back and forth game. Wichita played a physical style of defense and dared Louisville to beat them with jumpers as the Shockers clogged up the lanes for most of the game. Louisville tried to respond with their trademark full court press defense, however for the majority of the game the Shockers were not fazed by Pitino's trademark press. Wichita took a 26-25 lead into halftime in a tight defensive game.
Wichita State started the second half of play even stronger than they did to start the game. The Shockers had a shocking 12 point lead on the Cardinals with 13 minutes left in the game, this was the biggest deficit Louisville had faced all tournament. Cleanthony Early has been a force in this tournament and didn't slow down on Saturday evening. Early had 24 points to lead Wichita State in this back and forth game. Louisville was ignited by a pair of bench players who were seeing increased playing time to the injury to Kevin Ware. Walk on Tim Henderson and Luke Hancock hit a pair of threes to help spark the second half rally for Louisville. Hancock had 20 points off of the bench for Louisville. Louisville charged back with 21-8 run. Guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva turned up the heat on Wichita's back court which helped inspire Louisville's late game charge. Russ Smith also led the Cardinals in points with 21. The game would go until the final moments determine a winner. Russ Smith and Luke Hancock made clutch free throws in the final minute to seal the victory for Louisville 72-68.
Syracuse vs. Michigan
Michigan and Syracuse both defeated number one seeds in their regional finals to reach the final four. The Wolverines came out ready and completely dominated Syracuse and their vaunted 2-3 zone. Michigan was draining threes and executed their offense with crisp passing in route to a 36-25 halftime lead. The game became much sloppier in the second half. Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams had a nightmare game on the national stage. The Syracuse guard only scored 2 points and fouled out of the game after having a stellar tournament to lead Syracuse to the final four. Michigan's Trey Burke also had a rough game. The Associated Press player of the year only had 7 points for the Wolverines. Syracuse rallied to cut Michigan's lead to 58-56 in the final minute of the game. Syracuse had a chance to tie the game or take the lead with a three in the final 20 seconds. Brandon Triche of Syracuse was called for a late game charge when Michigan's Jordan Morgan made the defensive play of the game for the Wolverines with 19.2 seconds left. Michigan would go on to defeat Syracuse 61-56, preventing an all Big East national championship game. Tim Hardaway Jr. lead in scoring Michigan with 13 points as his father watched the game in the Georgia Dome. C.J. Fair kept Syracuse in the game with his game high 22 points. Fair's effort was not enough as Brandon Triche was the only other Syracuse player to score in double figures with his 11 points and game changing charge. Michigan now advances to their first national title game since 1989 when they take on Louisville on Monday evening.
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