None of them left the court until the cord had been cut and passed among them. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke motioned into the Michigan crowd for family members to join them. A starry eyed Nik Stauskas stood nearby and soaked in the atmosphere awed by the moment.
I m a freshman Stauskas said with a tinge of disbelief in his tone. I feel spoiled right now. The Final Four my first year it s unbelievable.
The young Wolverines dismantled the Florida Gators on Sunday with equal parts raw talent and pure shooting winning the South Region championship game 79 59 at Cowboys Stadium.
It s been a long time since this program has been here Burke said amid the postgame scrum. I felt like we had the team to get to Atlanta and now we re here and we re about to continue our work. Cutting down more nets that s the goal.
Stauskas missed only one shot hitting 7 of 8 attempts and scoring 22 points. He set up base camp in the left corner and drilled all six of his 3 point attempts holding his follow through an extra half second and firing a confident glare at his defender as the ball swished.
I felt it right away Stauskas said. My first shot in warm ups I could tell. I told Trey If I m open get me the ball and I ll knock it down.
Burke gradually found his groove and finished with 15 points 7 assists and 8 rebounds and was named the South Regional s most outstanding player. Mitch McGary one of three freshman starters banged and roamed freely against a passive Gators interior defense and hit his first four shots en route to 11 points and 9 rebounds.
After a sluggish start and a dramatic rally to beat Kansas in overtime the Wolverines vowed to be more focused against Florida. They fulfilled their promise with a 13 0 lead that clearly staggered the Gators.
We felt today the key was to come out and throw the first punch Burke said.
Michigan advanced to its first Final Four since the Fab Five team had back to back appearances in 1992 and 93. The Wolverines will be trying to win their first national title since 1989.
A lot of people said we were too young we weren t tough enough Burke said. I think that s why we played with a chip on our shoulder over the last couple weeks. We fought through adversity and we re here now. We still have unfinished business.
Michigan advances to meet Syracuse in a national semifinal Saturday in Atlanta. The Gators lost for the third consecutive year in the Round of 8 amid flat offensive and defensive performances.
The senior forward Erik Murphy embodied Florida s struggles going 0 of 11 and often arriving just late as Stauskas fired away from the left corner.
I can t pronounce his name but we gave him open looks and he made us pay Kenny Boynton said. He and Will Yeguete each had 13 points and were the only Gators to score in double figures.
The Gators closed to 11 points behind early in the second half on two free throws by Scottie Wilbekin and appeared energized for a rally. They trailed by 58 44 with 12 minutes 55 seconds to play but went scoreless for the next 4 40 a sloppy stretch in which Michigan pushed its lead to 21 points. Florida shot 41 percent from the field but managed to make only 2 of 10 tries from 3 point range with guard Mike Rosario missing all four of his attempts.
It s all a result of Burke Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. Those guys they do not have players that really are able to create for themselves.
These were the flawed Gators that fans feared would resurface in the tournament as Florida tried to reach its first Final Four since winning consecutive national titles in 2006 and 07. Before Sunday six of the Gators seven losses were by 6 or fewer points all of their victories came by 10 plus margins.
When adversity hit they seemed to shrink and Michigan blasted the Gators from the start opening a 47 30 halftime lead. No team had scored so many points in one half against Florida this season and the Wolverines were relentless from all angles.
They got off to a hot start and us not being able to manufacture enough points really dug us a hole Donovan said. We got the ball where we wanted it to go but a lot of times we just weren t able to convert.
Over all Michigan shot 46.2 percent and was even better from 3 point range hitting 52.6 percent. The Wolverines had 13 steals and harassed the Gators into 15 turnovers.
We played the best teams all year Stauskas said. We played in a tough conference. We re not scared of anybody
Maybe too young to remember the last time Michigan soared to such heights but certainly ready to create their own legacy.