Michigan Ends Loyola-Chicago's NCAA Tournament Run

"He's a special kid", MI coach John Beilein said of Wagner.

Once Loyola Chicago finished reestablishing that its surge to the Final Four had owed to lofty merit, MI finished chasing down Loyola Chicago. In his eyes, the Ramblers weren't a Cinderella anymore after they made it to the Sweet Sixteen two weeks ago.

The Hall of Fame made the announcement Saturday before the NCAA Final Four semifinals.

"We look at her and we've got nearly like a guiding light ... we know regardless of how we're doing, we've got a light at the end of the tunnel, that is Sister Jean", Shanks said.

This end to March Madness should be good.

Loyola's recruits for next season are ranked as three-star players: 6-9 center Franklin Agunanne from La Lumiere in IN, 6-3 shooting guard Cooper Kaifes from Kansas and 6-2 point guard Isaiah Bujdoso from Washington. MI was charged with eliminating them, and they did so without concern to the Ramblers' charm factor.

It's a resiliency that found its footing and persisted. Loyola was knocked out of the tournament in Michigan's 69-57 victory. A title game featuring MI and Villanova has the name recognition you want but there aren't many familiar with the surprise Wolverines.

The high stakes of the contest - and the nerves coupled with it - were evident from the get-go. Clayton Custer scored 15 points, and Aundre Jackson had 10 off the bench for the Ramblers, who shot just 1-of-10 from 3-point range. Their efforts headlined one of the Wolverines worst first half outputs of the season. "We were one (assist) and eight", Beilein said.

Newman says coach Bill Self stayed on him about becoming "a better point guard, a better player, a better leader".

Wagner had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Neither team shot well, with Loyola shooting a lowly 10-percent from three, and MI just 25-percent.

He finished with 17 points for the game.

Loyola-Chicago started the game by missing nine of its first 11 shots.

Halftime-Loyola of Chicago 29-22.

"I just said, 'You guys are the keepers of the culture now, ' " Moser said. So we had to cover that somehow defensively.

Maybe I'm just being ungrateful. "And it worked out". Ten of those came in the second half, which aided a 21-6 Wolverine run that ended with a Mathews fastbreak dunk.

Then Wagner went to work. Those two players combined to shoot 17 of 28 from the field.

Villanova finally made its push a year later, beating Kansas in a regional final then beating UNC on Kris Jenkins' walk-off 3-pointer for the national title. Wagner hit a pair of 3-pointers, a putback and a tip-in - and added a flex for the MI bench for good measure. Fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson followed with a long 3-pointer.

It's okay Loyola-Chicago, you were just a waste of time but you weren't alone.

"I kept looking possession by possession", Wagner said.

"We're going to give her a little bit of an extended break from everything". We just made every shot.

And the run that MI needed so badly became legitimate.

Still, Wagner's triple made it 6-4 Wolverines at the 16-minute mark.

Wagner's villainy wasn't finished, of course. For the rest of her life, win or lose. I see him night-in, night-out, the stress he brings to himself because he cares so much. "That's what a leader does".

With the game out of reach for Loyola after MI took a commanding eight-point lead late in the second half, Sister Jean left the building from her prominent first row post - and did not return. "I think we proved, during this run, that we can play with anyone in the country".

"If you put it like that, that's it's probably cool".

All that grew clear after Loyola Chicago began by trailing 12-4 and making shooting in a dome look like ... shooting in a dome. But when the Wolverines had to show up, they did. If it doesn't happen, she tells them regularly, it wasn't meant to be. "All we needed to see was the ball go in a couple of times, get a couple of stops and we did that".

Kansas scored the next seven points, Newman finishing that brief run with a driving layup to cut the deficit to 22-11 with 10:26 remaining. "We're playing well at the right time". Adorable nuns and national admiration only get you so far; at some point basketball matters.

  • Arturo Norris