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Michigan’s defense, Michael Carter-Williams’ struggles doom Syracuse

Apr 7, 2013, 3:38 AM EDT

NCAA Final Four Michigan Syracuse Basketball AP

ATLANTA — The knock on Michigan all season long was that this group didn’t have the defensive prowess to be able to play their way deep into the NCAA tournament.

And it was a valid point; the Wolverines weren’t — and aren’t — a great defensive team. They may not even qualify as a good defensive team compared to the rest of the elite teams in the country this season. Which is where the irony for this Michigan group lies. The reason that they’re playing in Monday’s national title game isn’t Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.

It’s their defense.

Think about this: Burke, Hardaway and Nik Stauskas combined to go 5-29 from the floor tonight. And Michigan won.

“We’d be talking about Trey Burke a little bit differently if we ended winning this one,” Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara said. But instead, we’re talking about Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland. Southerland didn’t score until there were five minutes left in the game, and that just so happened to be a ball that he accidentally tipped back into his own basket to push Michigan’s lead back to six points. He would finish with five points on 2-9 shooting.

Carter-Williams was worse. The guy that carried the Orange through the second weekend with two of his best performances of his career was 1-6 from the floor, finishing with more turnovers (five) than points and assists combined (four).

“I had hoped that I would play better,” Carter-Williams said. “It’s tough. I’m going to have to own up to it and move on.”

“I thought Mike got in there and had opportunities to finish,” McNamara added. “He missed one off the floater, a couple times they slid under him for charges. Sometimes it goes that way.”

And that’s where the frustration is going to lie for this Syracuse team.

They had a chance to pick up this win. They had a golden opportunity to make the National Title game right there in front of them. They lucked into a night where Michigan’s big guns and vaunted offense were no where to be found. And, perhaps more importantly, they played the Wolverines on a night where John Beilein’s club shot 4-9 from the charity stripe in the final 1:09, opening the door for a Syracuse come back.

But that comeback was thwarted. After getting to within two points with just 19 seconds left in the game, Brandon Triche drove to the right hand side and seemingly had a lane to the basket. But Jordan Morgan slid over and took the charge, sealing the win and sending Michigan on to compete for a national title.

It was the most important play of the game, and it came on the defensive end of the floor.

Who saw that coming?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. fanofevilempire - Apr 7, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    that was a blocking foul not a charge,
    guess the ncaa want the kids with nba dads to
    get as much publicity as possible.
    the refs should to be sent to Alaska to ref games
    on the elementary school level.

    • polegojim - Apr 7, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      …as he RACES to be first to repeat the same SILLY comment three times

    • djeg07 - Apr 7, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      stop whining, next you’ll blame bernie fine for not being there to pat the boys on the buttocks!

    • redbaronx - Apr 7, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      Seriously??? Are you blind? I’m not a fan of either team, so I have no dog in this fight, but only a blind fan would say that Brandon didn’t commit a clear charge. Jordan Morgan had his feet set for a full second which is an eternity in bball time for a ref to call a charge. His feet were outside the line. I’ve seen far closer charges than that on fractions of a second. If a ref couldn’t call that a charge, then NOTHING is a charge.

      fanofevilempire…..your team Syracuse had a chance to win, and they lost. Period! It wasn’t any type of favoritism or anything else. Plain and simple. Take it like a boy (at least) and PLEASE stop crying!!!

  2. lionsmark09 - Apr 7, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    Here comes the trolls saying it wasn’t a charge. The call could have gone either way. It was close. There were plenty of rough calls in both games. Stop whining.

    • polegojim - Apr 7, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      No kidding…. it was only after 3 angle looks in SLO MO that even the commentators thought it MIGHT have been blocking.

      There are ALWAYS fouls that could go either way… How about Hardaways ‘all ball’ block that was called a foul mid-second half… the Cuse player sunk BOTH shots…

  3. jpopejoy - Apr 7, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    Yes quit whining. Last weekend teams weren’t allowed to even breathe in MCW wo a foul call. It was a 50/50 call and I thought in full speed it was a charge.

    Do t worry though…had cuse won they’d likely have be stripped of it anyway.

  4. djeg07 - Apr 7, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    ITs funny how all the whiny lil ‘cuse bitches that thought the length, boeheims greatness and trash talking would get them the win now have to look at a 50/50 call and blame that on their loss. get over it the better team won today, i’d say in 10 games it might be a 5/10 win for both clubs. GO BLUE!

  5. boyshole25 - Apr 7, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Louisville is gonna spank Michigan anyway no big deal

  6. packhawk04 - Apr 7, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    I thought the zone was going to stifle michigan. I thought syracuse had mismatches all over the court. Now all syracuse can do is complain about a good call. Weird.

  7. midnightmaurader - Apr 7, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Who saw that coming, you say? Well lets check the record…

    *midnightmaurader – Apr 1, 2013 at 2:09 PM
    Michigan’s defense is actually why they’re still playing right now. So to say its why they won’t win is kind of flawed. Neither Syracuse or Louisville are big time offenses anyway.*

    It’s lazy of the media to keep throwing out blanket statements about Michigan’s defensive struggles instead of focusing on the specific struggles. Michigan has problems with teams that can outscore them in the paint. The mental lapse game against Penn State aside, Michigan has lost to teams that can go inside when they need a bucket. We saw that in the only game they should have lost in the tourney, against Kansas. McGary’s emergence has cleaned up a lot of that, but that’s still the only way to beat them. It’s pretty simple: Michigan isn’t going to turn the ball over, so if you can’t get easy buckets inside, you’re in for a battle. Especially if they outrebound you. Too many offensive possessions for that offense to take advantage of.

  8. barnesaintnoble - Apr 7, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Syracuse had a good plan, but they were still outplayed by Michigan for most of the game. They were prepared for Michigan’s starters but had no answer (and were caught off guard) but Albrecht and Levert. Even most Michigan fans didn’t expect them to play as well as they did. The national media must be saying, “Who the hell are these players, where did they come from and where did John Beilein find them?”

  9. dallasstars9 - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    Who is a “great” defensive team? Syracuse? When Michigan struggled this year they were getting outplayed in the paint. McGary, along with good minutes by Morgan and Horford has completed this team. GO BLUE!

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