ATLANTA - Somehow, someway, Michigan had to find the way to beat Syracuse's tough-to-crack zone defense.
Surprise! The team with the player of the year and the player of the tournament did it with depth, and defense(?!)
Trey Burke struggled, scoring only seven points and failing to make any sort of prominent impact. And while Mitch McGary dominated in the high post, and on the glass, the Wolverines relied on their supporting cast for a push all night.
"Me, Tim, and Nick didn't have the best night. It came down to stops and it came down to bench points. They gave us such a boost," Burke said.
Caris LeVert hit shots, Spike Albrecht didn't miss, and Jordan Morgan took a charge that sealed the team's 61-56 win.
"We don't play a lot of minutes because our starters are so good, but they needed us tonight," Albrecht said.
Glenn Robinson III said Morgan's charge was a "bigger" play than Trey Burke's three-pointer against Kansas. Two months ago, heck, two days ago, the thought of Michigan using defense as its strength was farfetched.
Now, it's the reality with one game left.
"We still play in the Big Ten. You gotta be able to play some defense," Morgan said with a laugh.
In the moments immediately following the Wolverines win, Tim Hardaway, Jr. ran into his team's locker room, mocking Syracuse's loud talk before the game.
The Orange claimed Michigan wasn't a good defensive team, and they hadn't watched any film on the Wolverines until Friday night.
"That's what they get for not watching film!" he screamed with a smile.
Bench points, defense, and Mitch McGary. It would have been hard to see those three strengths in a crystal ball at any other point in the season, but all that matters is they worked on Saturday.
"We know defense wins championships, and we're playing for one on Monday," Hardaway said.
Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad and his Final Four coverage from Atlanta on Twitter @BradGalli .
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