A pair of Michigan backups helped loosen up that Syracuse zone with their outside shooting, then an all-but-forgotten big man made the defensive play of the night.
Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht lifted the Wolverines with some early 3-pointers, and Jordan Morgan drew a crucial offensive foul in the final minute to help Michigan hold off Syracuse 61-56 in a national semifinal Saturday night.
Star point guard Trey Burke was held to seven points, but the Wolverines got contributions throughout the lineup.
Michigan will face Louisville in Monday night's title game.
LeVert and Albrecht — hardly the team's top options offensively — combined for four 3-pointers in the first half. When Syracuse rallied, it was Morgan who helped hold off the Orange. Syracuse trailed 58-56 when Brandon Triche drove to the basket. Morgan, who hurt his ankle at midseason and ceded playing time to Mitch McGary, was waiting to draw the offensive foul with 19.2 seconds left.
Syracuse had another chance with Michigan up three, but the Wolverines got a stop, and it was Morgan who capped the victory with a breakaway dunk.
Michigan already passed one big test in this NCAA tournament when the Wolverines picked apart Virginia Commonwealth's press on the first weekend. Syracuse's 2-3 zone figured to pose a different set of challenges — but Michigan has a deep roster of shooters.
That was obvious in the first half. Burke, the national player of the year, scored only three points in the half, but he had plenty of help. LeVert, who looked like he might redshirt at the beginning of the season, made a 3-pointer with 11:25 left in the first half. That snapped a dry spell in which the Wolverines missed eight straight 3s.
LeVert's second 3-pointer gave Michigan an 18-17 lead. Then it was Albrecht's turn. Burke's backup at point guard connected twice from long range, and after Burke made a long 3-pointer of his own, the Wolverines led 36-25 at halftime.
Michigan was doing what no other team seemed capable of lately — the Wolverines were beating the zone by shooting over all those long-armed defenders and moving the ball well enough to create more space on the perimeter.
LeVert's main contributions this season have been at the defensive end, and Albrecht's job is usually to take some of the ball-handling pressure off Burke. Any scoring Michigan gets from either is a bonus, but on this night, those points early on were big.
In the second half, the Wolverines wore down a bit. But they held on, thanks to Morgan. The 6-foot-8 junior, an elder statesman on a team with several important freshmen, was on the court at the end — and boy did Michigan need him.
When it was over, Morgan tossed the ball effortlessly in celebration, and it seemed to rise halfway to the ceiling in the giant Georgia Dome.