Hail to the Victors

ARLINGTON, Texas – Trey Burke turned to the sidelines and screamed in joy.

Cut down the nets. Michigan is going back to the Final Four.

The young Wolverines demolished Florida this afternoon in the South regional final at Cowboys Stadium, 79-59.

Michigan will play Syracuse Saturday night in Atlanta.

And as the Wolverines celebrated, the band began to chant: “It’s great. To be. A Michigan Wolverine!”

This wasn’t a game.

This looked like a bunch of kids storming a play structure. Taking over. Pushing everybody out of the way. Stealing the ball, over and over. Getting easy dunks. And demolishing Florida.

In the first half, Michigan played at warp speed, fueled by adrenaline and joy, oozing confidence, while having a ridiculous amount of fun.

Before you could push your Easter baskets out of the way, Mitch McGary had eight points and Michigan raced out to a comfortable 18-4 lead.

It looked like a bunch of kids, out on the driveway, playing a game of H-O-R-S-E. “Sure. That was cool. But watch me do this!”

There was Burke, throwing a pass to Tim Hardaway. But this wasn’t a normal pass. It was backwards. Between the legs. No looker.

But that wasn’t even the best pass of the game. That may have come from Nik Sauskas, the best thing to come out of Canada since Molson started shipping us cases of beer.

Early in the game, Stauskas had a beautiful, left-handed, behind-the-back bounce pass to Mitch McGary for a dunk.

That set the tone for the start. For Michigan. And for Stauskas. Clearly, he was feeling loose and confident.

On the next possession, Stauskas drained a three-pointer. Then, he decided to take four more. In the first half alone.

Swish. Swish. Swish. Swish

When Stauskas was 9 years old, growing up in Mississauga, Ont., he loved basketball so much that his dad put a court in the backyard instead of the putting green that he wanted.

Sure, Stauskas had to shovel off the snow, like, half the time just to go out and shoot. But that court had lights and a heater, so could play all night long and his hands wouldn’t go numb.

He shot about 1,000 times a day.

And all that hard work showed up today, as he dominated this game.

Through it all, there was Michigan coach John Beilein, sitting on a stool, on a raised court. When you look at him, you have no idea if Michigan is winning or losing or in a classroom

Michigan seemed to reach a new level in this game.

Confidence is like jet fuel.

And this team is soaring.

Michigan had a 47-30 lead at halftime. And as the Wolverines ran off the court, Burke screamed at his teammates: “This game isn’t over. It’s not over!”

He was right.

In the second half, Michigan slowed down and Florida cut the deficit to 11 points.

And then, Stauskas drained another three-pointer. Of course, it was Stauskas. He owned this game.

Not to be outdone, Spike Albrecht got into the act.

Albrecht, a freshman with the choir-boy haircut, snuck between two players, stole an inbounds pass and made a wild scoop shot.

And suddenly, Michigan’s lead was back up to comfortable margin, 54-38, with 14:50 to play.

By the end of the game, it was just smiles and dunks and pure joy.

When Albrecht hit a 3-pointer, Stauskas and McGary were on the bench. Screaming in joy. Celebrating their own teammates. Celebrating this wild win.

Now, Michigan will get ready to play Syracuse.

Which is great news for Michigan.

The Wolverines are just thankful it’s not another team from the Big Ten.

The only teams that have beaten Michigan this year are from their own conference.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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