In their 3rd round match up vs. Wichita State Kentucky was the 8th seed playing an undefeated and Number 1 seeded team in the region. It was also a match up of seniors vs. The Kentucky freshman. As a ten-loss team Kentucky went through a lot of growing pains as the season progressed. They won their 3rd round game in a hard fought game that prepared them for pretty much anything. They would need to lean on all of this experience in order to overcome a Louisville opponent who had been the pick of many to win the entire tournament. They didn’t look like their were going to win for most of the night against a tough and consistent Cardinal defense that threw a variety of press’s and traps their way. The Wildcats founds themselves down by 3 at halftime without playing particularly well and they began to feel like they could pull it out. They still found themselves down by 7 with a little over 4 minutes left. After rallying they cut the deficit and in the closing moments of a tight game Aaron Harrison hit a go-ahead 3 pointer with 39 seconds left and big man Julius Randle made 2 clutch free throws to send The Wildcats to the Elite 8.
After both Michigan and Tennessee had played above expectations to get to the sweet 16 people did not know what to expect in their game on Friday night. Tennessee had been a bubble team to even make the tournament and Michigan was a different team than the one that made a final four run last season. Of course, as March Madness always seems to produce, both teams played a terrific basketball game and it came down The Volunteers in possession with 6 seconds left and down by 1 point. Michigan Coach John Beilein implored his team to not allow Tennessee senior forward Jarnell Stokes to drive to the basket or post up. The Coach proved prophetic as Stokes caught the ball and lowered his shoulder going towards the basket. Josh Morgan heeded his coach’s advice and took a charge that resulted in Michigan possession and allowed the Wolverines to advance to the Elite 8 for the second consecutive year.
Michigan had used the 3-point shot as a weapon all season long and this game was no different as they made 11-20 from three-point range. Morgan was the best player on the floor with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and he took the biggest charge of his life. Glen Robinson III had 13 points and 5 rebounds. Nik Stauskas had a strong defensive game and finished with 14 points. Caris levert rounded out double figure scorers with 10 points and 5 assists.
Julius Randle was the star for the Wildcats with 15 points and 12 rebounds. It was his 23rd double double of the season. He is only the third freshman ever to have a double double in his first 3 tournament games. Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison also had 15 points. Andrew Harrison had 14 points to go along with 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
This should be a fantastic game. The youth of Kentucky may cause some nerves early but once they settle in they are showing to be as good as any team in the country. Michigan has the tournament experience of Robinson and Stauskas and that may be the difference maker.
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