Michigan came flying out of the gate, with Trey Burke scoring their first seven points. After falling into foul trouble, Burke went to the bench and Spike Albrecht came in and shocked everyone, playing out of his mind. He scored 17 points on 4-for-4 from 3-point land, taking over the basketball game (Michigan led by as many as 12) and the internet for about twenty minutes.
However, Luke Hancock’s four 3-pointers to close out the first half swung the momentum of the game back to Louisville, as Michigan led by just one point at the half.
Albrecht receded back into the shadows as Burke battled the Cardinals in the second half. It was a battle that Burke just couldn’t win, as Peyton Siva, Hancock and Chane Behanon were all magnificent. Louisville took control of the game about halfway through the second half and never really relinquished it on their way to a national title.
It has to be said; this was as entertaining of a national championship game as I have ever seen. After somewhat a clunker of an NCAA Tournament with poor offense being the storyline, this great basketball was so much fun to see. As clichéd as this sounds, both teams really did play fantastic basketball.
So, what was the difference?
Michigan’s downfall in this game started in the first half. Although it is hard to really blame him, John Beilein kept Burke out too long during Albrecht’s special stretch. You just don’t bench the best player in America for 12 straight minutes, no matter how well his backup is playing.
Louisville’s big run to end the half was massive, both erasing Michigan’s prior big stretch that gave them the 12-point lead and by swinging the momentum of the entire game.
For most of the second half, Michigan was down between two and six points, never able to find a way to break through and tie the game or take the lead. Their problem was that they couldn’t get stops. Whenever Michigan had a change to either tie the game or get within a point, Louisville found a way to get a bucket.
Behanon was massive, scoring 15 points, with 12 rebounds. He controlled the paint in the second half, making the crucial bucket at the end on a gritty putback, and was able to be so effective partially because Mitch McGary was in foul trouble for most of the second half.
At the end of the day, Michigan has no reason to hang their heads. They played great, exciting basketball — Louisville was just a little bit better.