Once again the Wolverines were flat out unconscious from beyond arc, making 11-20 on Friday night in their 73-71 dispatching of the Tennessee Volunteers. They went cold late, though, allowing the Volunteers back into the game. With six seconds left and down by one, the Volunteers isolated Jarnell Stokes in the interior. Jordan Morgan was able to draw the charge, though, as he tried to get by him. Nik Stuaskas followed up that great defensive play by making one of two at the free throw line, and Josh Richardson’s halfcourt heave as time expired was well long, securing the Wolverines’ second consecutive trip to the Elite Eight. Mitch McGary has already been ruled out of Sunday’s contest against Kentucky. While the Wolverines have really come together in his absence and not missed a beat without him, his size and strength would have been valuable against a Wildcats’ frontline that is still quite imposing, even without Cauley-Stein. It’s going to be vital for the Wolverines to finish out their defnse and limit the second chance opportunities they allow. If they can’t keep the Wildcats off of the offensive glass, their chances to get into the Final Four are slim. They’re also going to have to be on from three again as the long ball has become the cornerstone of this team’s success. They only made 10 trips to the free throw line against the Volunteers. They should look to be more aggressive, especially if they’re not hitting from three like they have been in the tournament, to try and get easier looks and potentially get Julius Randle in foul trouble.
It wasn’t until the 11:32 mark of the first half that the Wildcats got a bucket from someone other than James Young in their Sweet 16 matchup against the Louisville Cardinals. They trailed by as much as 13 due to their poor start, but in a game that really epitomized how their season has gone, the Wildcats got better as it went on. Julius Randle posted another double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, meanwhile Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison had 15, Andrew Harrison had 14 and the Wildcats eliminated the defending national champs 74-69. The Cardinals were really crippled by poor free throw shooting, going just 13-23 from the charity stripe. Still, they had a chance to tie it in the end. They had the ball in the hands of Russ Smith, the program’s fifth all-time leading scorer, but he was unable to connect on a triple with six seconds remaining. The Wildcats once again won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the Cardinals by eight. They also did a really good job of converting at the free throw line, connecting on 22 of 27. They did suffer a loss in the victory, with Willie Cauley-Stein going down with an ankle injury that has him ruled out for their Elite Eight game against Michigan. They’ll miss his size, but they got really solid production out of Alex Poythress against Louisville and his absence could give more minutes in a small ball lineup. To beat the Wolverines the Wildcats have to defend the three point line as well as they have all season and try to force some turnovers to create easy offense.
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