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Beilein guides Michigan into national championship game

SAN ANTONIO – Michigan  basketball ran into the national darling and a brutal shooting slump Saturday in Texas.

But as this team has done all year long, the Wolverines found a way.

And Monday night at the Alamodome, Michigan will play for a national championship.

The Wolverines overcame a horrid first-half shooting performance, received 24 points and 14 rebounds from Moritz Wagner and erased a 10-point second-half deficit with a 69-57 win over the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers in San Antonio.

Michigan (33-7) will play Villanova (35-4) in Monday's national championship after the Wildcats defeated Kansas, 95-79, in the other semifinal. It'll be Michigan's seventh national title game appearance and second in the last six years.

And the Wolverines, coached by Burt, N.Y. native and former ECC and Canisius coach John Beilein, got there the hard way.

Michigan's first half was, outside of one area, a bundle of frustration. Wagner finished the first 20 minutes with 11 points and 10 rebounds as the Wolverines feasted on second-chance points against undersized Loyola, but the rest of the team floundered.

Wagner and Charles Matthews went a combined 8 for 16 from the floor in the first half. The rest of the team combined to shoot 1 for 15.

"I just tried to go in the game, take what the opponent is giving me, what the game is giving me, stay emotionally solid and don't get emotionally drunk, and it worked out today," Wagner said.

Loyola, meanwhile, slowly took advantage by closing the half on an elongated 25-10 run that led to a 29-22 lead at the break.

The Ramblers opened the second half where they left off, as big man Cameron Krutwig converted an early three-point play to push the lead to 10 just 20 seconds in.

Michigan started to come to life midway through the half behind its bench. Jaaron Simmons hit his first 3-pointer since February. Jordan Poole scored on a driving layup before a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer with 10:06 to play made it 45-42, Loyola.

Loyola went on a three-minute scoring drought and Wagner tied the score with a triple from the corner. Poole put Michigan in front, 49-47, with a pair of free throws at the 6:20 mark of the second half. It was Michigan’s first lead since 15-13.

Michigan's run grew to 17-2 and a seven-point lead after a Wagner put-back and the foul, as the Ramblers went cold with five turnovers in four minutes and 20 seconds.

Wagner joined Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players with at least 20 points and 15 boards in a national semifinal.

For all the struggles Michigan had early, its finish was equally impressive as the Wolverines overpowered Loyola down the stretch time.

Michigan shot 29 percent in the first half and 57.1 percent in the second. The Wolverines outscored Loyola 47-28 after halftime.

Very few had the Ramblers (32-5) penciled in for the Final Four, but that was where the mid-major out of the Missouri Valley Conference found itself after a dream ride.

First came back-to-back buzzer-beating wins over Miami and Tennessee in the first two rounds of the South regional, then a one-point win over Nevada. The No. 11 seed in the South, Loyola then routed Kansas State 78-62 in a regional final to continue its Cinderella story.

"They're good," Beielin said. "They wouldn't be here if they were not good."

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