NCAA Tournament 2017: Wagner's second-half masterpiece carries MI to Sweet 16

Moritz Wagner left his celebrating teammates for a brief, sweet moment on Sunday to find an empty corner of the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and bow his head in private gratitude. "They can beat you so many different ways".

The Michigan basketball team continues their March Madness run with an NCAA Tournament second round game against the No. 2 seed Louisville Cardinals.

If Wagner set up the win, Wilson finished it off. Wilson scored 17 points, and, crucially, he calmly went 4-for-4 at the free-throw line in the final 17 seconds to secure the victory despite a couple big baskets from Donovan Mitchell to keep Louisville - which also had some success pressing MI and forcing turnovers late - within striking distance.

Louisville's Jaylen Johnson dunks the ball during the first half of a second-round game against MI in the men's NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 19, 2017, in Indianapolis.

Quentin Snider had 16 points for Louisville. Expect Louisville to march on to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines have won seven straight, soaring ever since that scary plane mishap on the way to the Big Ten tournament.

"They were switching so much stuff", Beilein said of Louisville's defensive approach.

The biggest surprise was the way it happened.

Louisville 49, MI 46 (11:23) After trailing by nine points, MI cut the deficit to three twice as Irvin scored six straight points for the Wolverines to give him 11 in the game.

Louisville showed the Gamecocks what the next step looks like. But as MI had promised, it is a more versatile team than given credit for, and it repeatedly burned the taller Cardinals inside.

Trailing 45-36 with 16:09 to play, Wagner made a layup that started a 17-6 run to give MI its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.

The Michigan Wolverines are scorching hot right now, and senior leader Derrick Walton Jr. is right at the forefront.

"I just said to Coach B [John Beilein], we only made six threes today, and we won", Wagner said.

Looking across the court Sunday, he'll see a familiar face in MI senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. Pitino could've changed defenses.

The Cards, meanwhile, also operated well down low, getting 44 points in the paint, but they were unable to hit outside shots, going 5-of-20 from three-point range. The Cardinals didn't cover in the win and they are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven. We've worked endlessly to play one-on-one in the post because people are sticking with our shooters.

MI (26-11) trailed by as many as nine points but shot 63 percent as it stormed back to take the lead in the second half. MI finally tied the game at 51 with 9:16 to play before exchanging baskets with the Cardinals for a couple of possessions. Walton, insisting he was fouled, answered by driving hard for a layup at the other end, moving the score to 69-65 with half a minute left. No two players better epitomize that than Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson. The Cardinals extended their defenders beyond the 3-point line at every opportunity. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

When Wagner hit a 3 with 6:39 left, the Wolverines had their largest lead of the contest. Many of them involved failing to stop one very tall young German.

"I try my best not to look at things like that", the 6-foot-3 Mitchell recently said, adding that his focus is winning a national championship with Louisville.

HollywoodLifers, who do you think will win this epic match up?

"We finally stopped them a couple times and made plays", North Carolina forward Justin Jackson said.

  • Leroy Wright