The Wolverines began to pull away from Syracuse even without much of a contribution from Burke. He finally scored his first points with just under a minute remaining in the first half, swishing a 3 from nearly the same spot on the court where he made the long shot that stunned top-seeded Kansas.
It would be Burke’s only basket of the night.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t offense,” he said. “A lot of us didn’t have good shooting nights, but it was defense that allowed us to advance.”
Burke came up huge in the South Regional, leading Michigan back from 14 points down with less than 7 minutes remaining against Kansas. He forced overtime with a long 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and Wolverines finished off the 87-85 upset in overtime.
Syracuse, meanwhile, had taken its trademark defense to new levels of stinginess in the NCAA tournament.
The Orange arrived in Atlanta having surrendered a paltry 45.75 points over four games, holding Montana (34), top-seeded Indiana (50) and Marquette (39) to their lowest scoring totals of the season. Overall, Syracuse’s tournament opponents had combined to shoot just 28.9 percent from field (61 of 211) and 15.4 percent from 3-point range (14 of 91).
Syracuse was brimming with confidence heading into the Final Four, believing its zone could shut down the Wolverines and its more experienced lineup would take advantage of Michigan’s youth.
But the Wolverines had more points by halftime than Montana, and nearly as many as Marquette managed in the regional final. Even though Hardaway missed a trey just before the buzzer sounded, Michigan sprinted off the court with a commanding 36-25 lead.
Syracuse didn’t have enough offensive firepower to come all the way back, shooting just 42 percent (23 of 55).
C.J. Fair scored 22 points, doing his best to rally the Orange all by himself. But Triche, with 11 points, was the only other Syracuse player in double figures.
With Michigan’s starters also struggling, the guys off the bench picked up the slack.
LeVert, who seemed headed for a redshirt early in the season and was known more for defense than offense, made a couple of 3-pointers in the opening half. He had connected just 11 times from that range coming into the Final Four.
Albrecht was another surprise. He, too, buried a couple of shots beyond the arc — one of them going through from the corner while he was sliding on his backside toward the Syracuse bench. Coming into Atlanta, he had made only a dozen 3-pointers the entire season.
There’s still another game to go.
“It’s going to be a great matchup,” said McGary, one of those Michigan freshmen. “They’re a team like Syracuse that also plays in Big East and they remind me of VCU the way they trap and can turn over the ball, so it should be a great matchup.”