It's final: Heels vs. Wolverines Michigan uses OT to finish off Kentucky, 81-78

April 04, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- In the end, Michigan couldn't quite give it away last night at the Louisiana Superdome. But in the end, Kentucky couldn't quite take its down-to-the-overtime buzzer NCAA semifinal.

After blowing an 11-point lead in the second half, the Wolverines needed Jamal Masburn to foul out in overtime and Chris Webber to take over in an 81-78 victory. Webber had 27 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Wolverines.

It was Webber's basket with 42 seconds left in overtime that put Michigan ahead by one. After two free throws by Jalen Rose 21 seconds later and a missed three-pointer by Gimel Martinez with six seconds to go, it was Webber's steal off the final inbounds pass that sealed the victory.

The victory put Michigan (31-4) into tomorrow's championship game against North Carolina, which earlier defeated Kansas, 78-68. It marks the second straight trip to the final for the Fab Five, who lost to Duke last year in Minneapolis, and the third in five years for Wolverines coach Steve Fisher.

"I thought it was a terrific basketball game," said Fisher, who like Dean Smith, will be going after his second national championship. "Kentucky is a terrific team, but we had a little bit more down the stretch. We had all our guys on the floor and they had some of their guys off the floor. But we had to make some big plays when we needed them and we did."

Aside from Mashburn, who fouled out with 3:23 remaining in overtime after leading the Wildcats with 26 points, Kentucky (30-4) was without two other starters: senior guard Dale Brown left the game with a separated shoulder with 6:13 to go, while freshman forward Jared Prickett also fouled out in overtime.

Before Mashburn left, Kentucky was seemingly in control after scoring on its first three possessions of overtime to take a 76-72 lead. Still leading 78-75 after two free throws by freshman guard Tony Delk with 1:12 left, the Wildcats watched their season slowly slip away.

First Ray Jackson drove the lane, scored and was fouled. Though the Michigan forward missed the free throw, the ball went off Martinez's hands. Webber then spun around Martinez for a layup to give the Wolverines a 79-78 lead. Rodney Dent then missed for the Wildcats. Rose was fouled and made a pair of free throws.

"It was a great basketball game, one that we didn't win so it wasn't too great for us," said Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. "We had to fight a lot of adversity. Mash went out with fouls. Prickett was out with fouls. Dale was out and we were in a lot of trouble. We let it slip away and we're very disappointed."

It is the second straight year that Pitino's team finished its season with a heart-throbbing, heartbreaking overtime loss. Last year the Wildcats lost to eventual champion Duke, 104-103, in the East Regional final at the Spectrum in what many consider the greatest college basketball game ever played.

Last night's game didn't match last year's in terms of intensity or big plays, but it had two common themes: Mashburn fouling out after leading the Wildcats to the brink of victory, and the other team's best player coming up with the game's biggest basket. Last year it was Duke's Christian Laettner; last night it was Webber.

"He's a strong basketball player," said Mashburn, whose college career is over after he recently gave up his final year of eligibility to make himself available for the NBA draft. "He's a great player. He's got great hands and he's a great rebounder. He came up with some big plays for them."

Said Webber, "The one thing about our team is that we have a unique way of putting pressure on one another. I think we all take it as a challenge to come up with something big."

Aside from Webber, Michigan got some big performances out of the other members of its much promoted all-sophomore starting lineup. Rose finished with 18 points, while center Juwan Howard scored 17. Jackson had 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Wolverines also did a great defensive job on Kentucky, limiting the Wildcats to 35 percent shooting (12 of 34) in the last 25 minutes and 41 percent (26 of 61) for the game. Brown scored 16 points before diving into a metal pole and separating his shoulder. Wildcats guard Travis Ford missed seven of 10 shots, including four of six on threes.

"Nobody has held us to 35 percent shooting [in the tournament]," said Pitino, whose team had won its four previous post-season games by an average of 31.4 points. "They're a big physical basketball team. But the difference tonight was that they normally don't make their free throws, and tonight they did."

The Wolverines made 23 of 30 from the free-throw line, including six of eight in overtime. But after watching their 11-point lead disappear, after watching Ford put the game into overtime on a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left, after watching Rose's 19-footer at the regulation buzzer miss wide, Michigan hung in there.

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