An improbable and exhilarating journey to the brink of a second national championship ended for Syracuse’s men’s basketball team two victories short of the ultimate prize during the Final Four in Atlanta.
In last Saturday night’s NCAA national semifinal game, Michigan survived the Orange’s attempt to rally in the closing minutes. Despite late turnovers and missed free throws from the Wolverines, the Orange, with a chance to catch up, sputtered down the stretch as Michigan hung on, 61-56 in front of a capacity crowd of 75,150 at the Georgia Dome.
For the first time in 20 years, Michigan advanced to the championship game – and in doing so, Wolverines head coach John Beilein (whose long tenure included a stint at Le Moyne College) finally defeated Jim Boeheim, which he couldn’t do in eight tries while at the helm in West Virginia.
Two controversial calls led to Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche both fouling out of the game amid a tense final sequence.
With 1:00 remaining and Carter-Williams sidelined by his five fouls, Triche narrowed Michigan's margin to 57-53 on a driving shot. He was fouled on the play by Trey Burke, but was unable to convert the free throw.
Then, Michigan center Mitch McGary failed to hit both free throws, and SU's James Southerland, shut out most of the night, delivered his first 3-pointer with only 47.8 seconds remaining that made it 57-56. Burke was fouled, and he went one-for-two from the line, which, leaving the door open for SU to tie or take the lead.
Triche charged up the court and drove to the basket. But he was well-defended by Michigan’s Jordan Morgan, who got himself in position for a charge.
When that pivotal play was reviewed, there were many differences of opinion on whether it was a charge or blocking foul, but what mattered was that Triche had fouled out, joining his frustrated teammate, Carter-Williams, on the bench.