NCAA TOURNAMENT: Michigan pushes past Loyola to reach championship game

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MI forward Moritz Wagner (13) celebrates a three next to Loyola Chicago guard Marques Townes.

This isn't the first NCAA Tournament matchup between the Wolverines and Sister Jean's Ramblers.

Loyola of Chicago team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt addressed several topics in a press conference Friday before the Ramblers' Final Four clash with MI on Saturday.

MI won the title in 1989, while Loyola-Chicago won it in 1963. The maligned institution needed it.

Much of the talk coming into Saturday's semifinal had been the run of the Ramblers. It wasn't just fun. "And the way they're playing, it's incredible". It wasn't quite like that this time. Clayton Custer scored 15 points, and Aundre Jackson had 10 off the bench for the Ramblers, who shot just 1-of-10 from 3-point range. (Michigan's) length - they're really good defensively.

"I don't really like the saying 'Cinderella story, ' because it always includes somehow that they're not supposed to be there", Wagner said. "I couldn't be more proud and saddened that this is over with these kids". Loyola never got closer than five.

"They changed the perception of when you say 'Loyola Chicago, ' they changed the perception of it", Moser said. They changed, across the country, the alumni, the pride.

Lovable Loyola (32-6), with superfan Sister Jean courtside and their fans behind the bench standing for pretty much the entire game, could not conjure another upset.

Sister Jean watched attentively in the second half while Loyola's healthy lead dwindled and vanished in a flurry of turnovers.

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These performances were what kept MI basketball from being the first team to lose to a double-digit seed in a Final Four game ever. LSU lost to Louisville, the eventual champion, 88-77. "They believed, they wanted to advance".

The Chicago native was a good outside shooter who played bigger than his 6-foot-6 size. And we saw some great defense [from Loyola]. "They're really hard at this time in front of their bench, calling their plays". "We had trouble scoring the first half. They rotated so quickly". Even though the ramblers fell to the wolverines everyone was just happy they were able to overcome the odds and make it to the Final Four.

Wagner became the third player in the last 40 years with a 20 and 15 game in a Final Four game, joining Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston in 1983 and Larry Bird of Indiana State in 1979. MI wasn't all that efficient, either.

The Wildcats made six 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes of the national semifinal game. From there, the Wolverines went on a 17-2 run, culminating with Wagner's free throws with 4:59 left, to go up 54-47. In that run, there were the five turnovers on five straight possessions which resulted in eight of those 12 points.

The game turned into a defensive slugfest. "I didn't look at it and think what we were doing was wrong".

Now, the Ramblers are left to put their run, which included four tournament victories and a South Region title, into perspective.

Seven different players already had made 3s for Villanova. "We did everything the right way". It is not anything to be joked around with.

Forget about the mid-major label.

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