Michigan basketball dismantles Florida State, 76-58, to advance to the Elite Eight

Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

Michigan basketball is going to the Elite Eight.

The Wolverines dismantled No. 4 seed Florida State, 76-58, on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

After establishing an 11-point lead at halftime, Michigan led by as many as 23 points in the second half — the largest deficit of the season for the Seminoles, according to CBS.

The Wolverines were unbothered by Florida State's length and athleticism and controlled the game on both ends of the court. Four players scored in double digits, led by Brandon Johns with 14 points. Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner scored 13 apiece, and Chaundee Brown Jr. added 12 points off the bench.

The defense held the Seminoles under one point per possession and a subpar shooting performance at 39.7% from the floor.

It was a complete game from Michigan. And now, it will await the winner of Alabama-UCLA.

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Michigan guard Franz Wagner drives past Florida State guard Scottie Barnes during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA tournament on Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis.
Michigan guard Franz Wagner drives past Florida State guard Scottie Barnes during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA tournament on Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis.

Michigan came ready to play

It was not always pretty, but the first half went almost as well as the Wolverines could have hoped for.

U-M understood the scouting report on Florida State on both ends of the floor and, for the most part, executed the game plan during the first 20 minutes. The Seminoles switch almost every screen, and Michigan used its guards — particularly Mike Smith — to attack the resulting mismatches. After a tight opening from both teams, Smith gave the Wolverines breathing room when he hit a step-back 3 after a switched screen and then helped find an open 3 for Brown on the next possession after another switched screen. The consecutive triples extended Michigan's lead to nine. The lead could have even been wider after Smith generated two open 3s for Wagner on consecutive possessions — but the shots did not fall.

Defensively, the Wolverines played one of their best halves of the season. Florida State averaged just 0.62 points per possession and shot 10-for-30 from the field (including 0-for-7 from 3); the Seminoles struggled to find good looks in its half-court offense because Michigan stuck to its guns. The Wolverines played drop coverage with Hunter Dickinson, inducing tough 2s from Florida State, and contested vertically at the rim without fouling. It also helped that the Seminoles turned the ball over 10 times in their first 25 possessions — with most of the errors unforced.

Juwan Howard's preparation put Michigan in a position to win the game — and his team's execution in the first half got them halfway there.

Second-half takeover

Florida State missed its first nine 3-pointers. Then Michigan gave up open looks on consecutive possessions, and the Seminoles buried both to cut the lead to five points.

Yet the Wolverines would not fold.

This was the crucial juncture in the game: U-M's defense buckled in and the offense put on a clinical performance. Michigan put together a 7-0 run to extend the lead back to 12, surrendered an open 3 to Anthony Polite and then squeezed out another 6-0 run.

It was pretty offense: The Wolverines drove to the basket or fed the post and then found open cutters for easy baskets. Then Wagner added a pair of swooping layups that stretched the lead to 17. On the other end, Florida State's offense devolved into a series of forced jumpers early in the shot clock.

Meanwhile, Smith began to take over ...

Smith shows why he is so good

On paper, this didn't look like a great matchup for Smith, given Florida State's size. The grad transfer from Columbia is listed at 5-feet-11 — perhaps generously.

Yet despite giving up half a foot or more to every opponent, Smith dominated. He was in full control on offense, knowing when to accelerate to beat Florida State's full-court pressure and when to slow down and run Michigan's half-court sets. He was assertive when the Seminoles switched screens, attacking the opposing big man, and passed the ball well. Smith finished with four assists but could have easily had more; he found numerous open shooters, only for the shots to fall out.

Against a team like Florida State, the Wolverines needed their veteran point guard to play with poise and control. And he did just that.

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball dismantles Florida State, 76-58, for Elite 8 berth