Cinderella Loyola, Michigan advance to Final Four

By Alex Butler  |  March 25, 2018 at 12:40 AM
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March 25 (UPI) -- Loyola and Michigan each punched tickets into the Final Four Saturday with wins against Kansas State and Florida State.

The Cinderella Ramblers -- an 11 seed -- were the first team officially headed to San Antonio, getting by the No. 9 Wildcats 78-62 at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

No. 3 Michigan beat No. 9 Florida State 58-54 to advance out of the West region at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Ramblers tied the 1986 LSU Tigers, 2006 George Mason and 2011 VCU Rams as the worst-seeded team to advance to the Final Four. None of those squads advanced to the National Championship.

"First of all, we always talk about it the glory goes to God," Loyola coach Porter Moser told reporters after the game. "We are so blessed with the journey. Secondly, just this group of guys, are resilient. They believe. We've said it all along. Game by game, they've just taken one game at a time and believed. Their togetherness, their body language, their effort they invested...I'm so happy for them."

"To see these guys experience that is an amazing feeling as a coach. To go through and have a locker room like this. I'm just really happy for these guys."

The Ramblers were a defensive dynamo against the Wildcats, holding Kansas State to 34.8 percent shooting and allowing just 23.1 percent from 3-point range from their favored foes. The Wildcats shot 40.9 percent from 3-point range in their Sweet 16 win against Kentucky.

Loyola senior guard Ben Richardson hit 6-of-7 from downtown and scored a game-high 23 points in the victory. Xavier Sneed led Kansas State with 16 points and six rebounds.

Florida State and Michigan were engaged in a tighter affair. Michigan held a 27-26 lead at halftime. The Wolverines stayed in front of the Seminoles in the second half, despite the Seminoles cutting the lead to three points with about a minute remaining. The Seminoles cut the lead to two points on a tip in with about 22 seconds remaining, but Michigan made their free throws and put the game away.

Charles Matthews led all scorers with 17 points for the Wolverines. Senior forward Phil Cofer led the Seminoles with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

"It was special. Last year, all I used to hear in practice was 'turnover Matthews.' But I stayed with it," Matthews told reporters after the game. "Coach stayed on me. He continued to believe in me. That just continued to help my confidence grow and my teammates believe in me and I believe in them so it has just been a special feeling."

Loyola faces Michigan on March 31 for a spot in the title game.

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