Michigan makes first-half run, hangs on against Syracuse
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ATLANTA -- Jim Boeheim's long goodbye to the Big East was one game shorter than he would have liked. Dreams of an all-Big East national championship game against Rick Pitino and Louisville evaporated along with the Syracuse offense.
The Orange held Michigan to just 25 second-half points but couldn't overcome an 11-point halftime deficit and fell to the Wolverines, 61-56, in the national semifinals Saturday night at the Georgia Dome.
"Our defense was good enough to win," a disconsolate Boeheim said. "Our offense wasn't."
Except for C.J. Fair, who had 22 points, and Brandon Triche with 11, Syracuse (30-10) failed to mount an offense. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams scored just two points on 1-for-6 shooting and added only two assists. James Southerland was 2-for-5 from the field for just five points.
Syracuse had a chance to tie the game at 58 with 19.2 seconds left, but Triche drove to the basket, missed and was called for a charge against Michigan's Jordan Morgan. "I probably should have made a better decision and pulled up," Triche said. "I did see him, but I was already in the air."
The Wolverines still led only 59-56 when Trevor Cooney of the Orange came out of a timeout with 15.7 seconds left, drove and threw up a wild miss that led to a run-out and finishing dunk by Morgan.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Wolverines (31-7) with 13 points, Mike McGary had 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and Glenn Robinson III had 10 points. Trey Burke was held to seven points and shot 1-for-8.
Michigan's high-powered offense had no trouble with Boeheim's 2-3 zone in the first half. The Wolverines finished the half on a 21-8 run to go to the locker room with a 36-25 lead.
It wasn't the score that was so surprising as where Michigan's scoring was coming from. The Wolverines got a pair of threes apiece from little-used subs Caris Levert and Spike Albrecht to keep the run going to halftime. "They had two bench players come in and hit four threes," Southerland said. "It definitely got them going."
In the second half, Michigan still had a 10-point lead at 45-35 when Levert hit a jumper with 13:35 to play. But that's when the Orange began working their way back into the game. Fair had six points in a 10-3 surge that narrowed the Wolverines' lead to 48-45 with 7:53 left.
Michigan managed a 5-0 surge that pushed the lead back to 53-45 with 3:54 left. But the Orange forced three straight turnovers. The first led to a fast-break dunk by Fair, the second to a missed three by Southerland, and on the third, Southerland slammed an emphatic dunk that made it 53-49 with 1:58 left.
"We got back in the game in spite of our offense," Boeheim said. "When we were down eight, we made a move to give ourselves a chance. I was really proud we were able to do that."
The Orange got the deficit down to 57-56 when Southerland finally connected on a three with 40.3 seconds left, but they couldn't finish the job.
Boeheim, however, does plan to finish the job he began 37 seasons ago. He was upset when asked after the game whether he plans to lead Syracuse into the ACC next season. "I've never indicated at any time that I'm not coming back next year," Boeheim said. "Ever."