Michigan basketball was only ever going to go as far as Moritz Wagner took them, and he was everything in the Wolverines’ 69-57 win over Loyola-Chicago. The center was a matchup nightmare, using his size on the interior and also flashing his deep-ball range. Loyola didn’t have the bodies to contain him.
After a 29 percent shooting first half, Michigan should’ve been in a way deeper hole, but even with most of his teammates struggling, Wagner was able to do just enough.
He finished with 24 points, and a career-high 15 rebounds as the go-to guy for the Wolverines. (And for long stretches, he was the only guy.) He became just the third player in the last 40 years to drop 20 and 15 in the Final Four along with Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird, according to ESPN.
Wagner exposed Loyola-Chicago’s great defense for its one flaw
Cameron Krutwig is the Ramblers’ talented center who’s known for bullying his way in the paint. He’s a stocky guy who catches the ball in the low post and makes a move. He wasn’t made to defend Wagner-types out on the three-point line, and Michigan knew it.
Wagner went three of seven from beyond the arc, finishing over anyone who came at him. Nobody could match the 6’11 bigs’ size on the perimeter.
And when Krutwig dared to chase Wagner off the arc, the Wolverines made him pay in other ways too. He was able to dish to cutting wings, and also put the ball on the ground and drive to the bucket.
Wagner was the best player on the court, and made that known from the very beginning.
Wagner’s teammates played really poorly
There’s no understating just how bad Wagner’s teammates were in this one. Charles Matthews, a forward, came on late for 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but aside from him, people not named Moe Wagner shot 8-of-31 from the field. That includes 3-of-19 from three-point range.
Michigan’s guards and wings weren’t even the ones feeding Wagner. He did a lot of it on his own. The team had all of eight assists the entire game, and one of those belonged to Wagner. Six of his 15 rebounds were offensive as well, meaning most of his points were made in the paint of his own efforts.
This game would not have been close without him.
Wagner credits his ability to avoid being “emotionally drunk”
I just tried to go in the game and 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.
Michigan will need him to be this explosive again if they’re to beat Villanova or Kansas. He’ll have to remain emotionally sober.