Michigan 61 - Syracuse 56: Orange's Season Ends With A Fight

USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse's 2013 basketball season came to an end Saturday, as the Orange fell to the Michigan Wolverines, 61-56, in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

It is a free country, so you can choose to blow off steam your way.

But just so you know, before sitting down to write this post-game recap of the Syracuse Orange's 61-56 loss to the Michigan Wolverines in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in Atlanta, I chose to applaud one helluva effort.

At halftime, Syracuse (30-10) nearly looked dead in the water. Michigan had the game plan and was executing it to perfection.

The result was an 11-point advantage, and the only way the Orange stood a chance was to claw and grind its way back into it with defense, C.J. Fair's offense and hope the breaks went their way in the end.

Syracuse did two of the three, however, the end-game breaks just favored the team wearing maze instead of orange.

(Deep breathe.)

Michigan beat Syracuse mainly by completely outplaying them on offense in the first half.

After 20 minutes of play, the Wolverines had a 20-13 advantage in rebounds, committed just two turnovers and made a pair of 3-point bombs.

However, the second half was nearly, not all, but nearly, all Syracuse, which had a chance to tie the game with 19 seconds remaining.

Senior Brandon Triche chose to take the game into his hands -- something you want a senior to do -- by driving to the basket and (sigh) didn't get the break he was hoping for.

Instead of making the game-tying bucket, after leaping for a layup, he was called for a block, which awarded Michigan the ball.

(Triche said in the post-game press conference he wished he would have pulled-up for a shot, but wanted to make a play for his team.)

Syracuse, which now was playing without point guard Michael Carter-Williams and Triche, still had life after Michigan forward Jon Horford made one of two free throws to increase the Wolverines lead to 59-56.

Head coach Jim Boeheim called timeout to draw-up a last-second, game-tying play, but freshman Trevor Cooney, the only guard left, decided to settle for two points. The result was a contested, missed shot and a transition dunk by Michigan that capped the scoring and broke the hearts of Syracuse fans, which saw its team battle but fall oh-so short.

(In the post-game press conference, Boeheim said the play was for Southerland, but Michigan switched on it, and Cooney took what was available.)

Michigan moves on to play the Louisville Cardinals in Monday's National Championship Game.

Meanwhile, Boeheim falls to 3-1 in NCAA semifinal contests and 9-1 against Michigan head coach John Beilein.

The Syracuse collegiate careers of seniors James Southerland (five points on 1-for-5 from behind the 3-points line and three rebounds), Triche (11 points, eight assists and three rebounds) and sophomore MCW (two points, five rebounds and five turnovers) come to an end. Heck, the way Fair performed Saturday (22 points and six rebounds) there's a slim chance he also may not return too.

The Orange's second-half rally was propelled by freshman Jerami Grant, who collected four points and seven rebounds, a fantastic defensive performance and, well, Fair's offense.

Michigan advanced despite getting only seven points from the National Player of the Year, guard Trey Burke. It survived thanks to an all-around effort from center Mitch McGary and its bench, which out-scored SU's bench 21-11.

However, this recap will not end on that. It will end saying, this was a fantastic ride that none of us saw coming. Our boys went down fighting, and if your season ends with a loss that's all you can ask for.

(P.S., Sean, who is down in Atlanta, will write down his thoughts in a later post. So, don't worry it is coming. Oh, and, the Boeheim presser was SO AWESOME. So, at least we got that.)

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