Wolverines rout Gators to earn Final Four berth

The SportsXchange

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Move over Fab Five, scooch aside Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson, a new band of Michigan Wolverines is ready for the Final Four spotlight.

With Nik Stauskas draining 3-pointers, Mitch McGary dominating the paint and Trey Burke running the show, Michigan quickly dismantled Florida on the way to a 79-59 victory in the South Regional final Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium.

Michigan (30-7) will play Syracuse in a national semifinal on Saturday in Atlanta. It's the Wolverines' first trip to the Final Four since the Fab Five lost to North Carolina in the 1993 national championship game.

"It means the world," Michigan junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "Twenty years has passed and we haven't been on the stage yet. Everybody buys on the coach (John) Beilein system and it's great to have everybody just buy into it and go out there and play as hard as they can."

Meanwhile, Florida (29-7) lost in the Elite 8 for the third consecutive season. Gators coach Billy Donovan said the two previous losses on the brink of the Final Four hurt worse because of how close Florida had been to breaking through.

Not this time.

"This one we didn't play well enough or deserve to win the game," Donovan said. "Michigan deserved to win the game."

Michigan jumped ahead right from the opening tip behind breakout star McGary, who scored eight points as the Wolverines established a 13-0 lead.

McGary came into the NCAA Tournament averaging 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds. But entering the Wolverines' fourth game of the postseason, he was contributing a team-leading 19.7 points and 12.3 rebounds. He finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and five steals against the Gators.

"Mitch has learned a lot," Burke said. "He runs the floor well, he has great feel for the game that a lot of big men don't have. Mitch is just everywhere on offense and on defense."

McGary's two baskets to start the game -- a fast-break layup on an assist from Hardaway and a dunk on an assist from Stauskas -- and Stauskas' 3-pointer from the corner set the tone as Michigan grabbed a 7-0 lead in the game's first 94 seconds.

Burke drove for a basket, dished to McGary for an inside hoop and hit a 3-pointer to boost the Wolverines to a 16-2 start. Florida never climbed back within 10 points.

Donovan said Burke's presence is the catalyst for the Wolverines.

"It's all a result of Burke," Donovan said. "They do not have players who are able to create for themselves. But because Burke is such a great scorer he's got good size and he also can find people."

Stauskas stretched the lead to as many as 24 in the first half by hitting 5 of 5 3-point attempts. He went to the break with 19 points and Michigan led, 47-30.

Stauskas scored a game-high 22 points, finishing a perfect 6 of 6 from beyond the arc.

"My teammates did a great job of finding me open," Stauskas said. "Right from the outset, my shot felt good so I was letting it fly."

Burke finished with 15 points and seven assists.

Florida struggled to shut down all of the Wolverines' options on offense. By trying to clamp down on Burke and McGary, the Gators consistently left Stauskas open.

"Burke would come off a screen and it would be the wing man's job to kind of stick with McGary a second until the big guy gets back," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "I think we over-rotated and the shooter, he just knocked down shots. He shot the lights out."

Michigan out-rebounded Florida 21-14 in the first half and the Wolverines, who made seven of their first nine shots, shot 51.4 percent from the field in the first half.

Will Yeguete and Boynton each scored 13 points to lead Florida.

The Gators cut Michigan's lead to 12 points on two occasions in the second half. But Stauskas hit his final 3-pointer of the contest and reserve guard Spike Albrecht made a layup to stiff-arm the Florida comeback attempt on each occasion.

"The fact that we're going (to the Final Four) right now, this is great frosting on the cake," Beilein said.

NOTES: Burke was named the South Regional Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the all-region team by teammates Stauskas and McGary. Florida's Mike Rosario and Kansas' Ben McLeMore rounded out the all-region team. ... Michigan and Florida met for only the second time in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan won the previous contest in 1988 with a 108-85 win in the West Regional second round. ... Florida entered the South Regional final with an 0-6 record this season in games decided by single digits. The Gators won their three previous NCAA Tournament games by margins of 32, 14 and 12 points. ... By totaling 23 points and 10 assists, Burke became the first player to record a 20-plus-point, 10-assist game in the Sweet 16 since Florida Donovan did it while playing at Providence in 1987. ... The 14-point margin Michigan erased against Kansas was the largest deficit the Wolverines have overcome to win this season. ... The last time Michigan reached the Elite 8, the Wolverines also played in Texas, losing to eventual national champion Arkansas 78-71 at Reunion Arena in Dallas.
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