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Final Four Memories

1998 NCAA Men's Tournament

  Fisher Lands Big One: Michigan Wins NCAA Title

By Ken Denlinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 4, 1989; Page D1



The University of Michigan team celebrates after winning the 1989 National Championship.
(TWP File Photo)
A Michigan team accused of underachieving the last several seasons won college basketball's biggest prize tonight in courageous fashion.

Knocked groggy by a intrepid Seton Hall rally in regulation, down halfway through the first NCAA championship overtime since 1963, the Wolverines prevailed, 80-79, on a pair of Rumeal Robinson foul shots with three seconds left.

"I'm the happiest man alive," yelled Steve Fisher, awaiting his being elevated to head coach after going 6-0 on an interim basis after replacing Bill Frieder just before the tournament started. Frieder quit to take the head coaching job at Arizona State.

Still stubborn, Michigan Athletic Director Bo Schembecher hedged by saying: "I think we ought to interview Steve Fisher. We'll certainly do that. It's a great day for Michigan, our first national championship."

Guard Robinson scored the winning points but it was Glen Rice who carried the Wolverines through this 51st tournament and this memorable game. With 31 points tonight and 184 in all, the 6-foot-7 marksman broke a 24-year-old record for total production and was named most outstanding player. The mark of 177 points, set by Princeton's Bill Bradley in five games, fell late in the final 20 minutes.

This is when the Wolverines were pulling ahead, seemingly able to coast home against a gang of Pirates often overmatched rebounding. A Rice three-pointer gave Michigan a 10-point lead with 8:20 left.

But Seton Hall had come too far too fast to fall too swiftly tonight. The Pirates spent much of the 1980s as one of college basketball's horrible teams; all of a sudden, they were flying toward a Cinderella end to the decade.

Their rally started with Michigan taking a 66-61 lead on Terry Mills' basket with 4:07 left. Then the John Morton Show began for 39,187 fans in the Kingdome seats.

In all, Morton scored 35 points. Down the regulation stretch, he had nine of Seton Hall's final 10 points, including the three-pointer with 24 seconds left that ultimately caused overtime.

First, guard Gerald Greene saved the ball from going out bounds by swatting it to Morton near halfcourt, from where Morton proceeded to a jam.

Andrew Gaze caused a Michigan turnover and Morton hit a 15-footer. On the next possession, Morton slipped inside the defense for the basket that gave Seton Hall a 67-66 lead with 2:01 left.

With a minute left, Rice hit an off-balance three-pointer with a Pirate flying toward his fact to give Michigan the lead at 69-68. Sean Higgins sank two foul shots for the Wolverines and Morton hit a three-pointer to tie matters. Rice had the final shot of regulation, an off-balance 17-footer, but barely missed.

In the extra period, Seton Hall gave Michigan the opening it needed when Greene missed the first shot of a one-and-one with 1:17 left and Seton Hall ahead, 79-76. The Pirates had one final chance to win it, as Ramon Ramos threw an inbounds pass the length of the court to Daryll Walker with three seconds left, but Walker's shot bounced off the backboard.

Fisher's team had taken command early and fairly in regulation. They won by scoring the game's final four points and holding the Pirates scoreless the last 2:37.

Robinson was fouled by Greene with three seconds remaining and Seton Hall tried to unnerve him with a timeout before his first try.

Robinson swished it. Confident, he raised his right arm and embraced Mike Griffin. Then he swished the game winner.

"I just saw :Robinson: penetrate and I tried to cut him off," Greene said of the critical foul. "We both collided and the official called the foul. I felt I was in good enough position to pick up :a charge:."

As expected, neither team gave any quarter. Seton Hall's Greene perhaps was still feeling the sting of a Rice elbow to his throat when he missed a three-pointer in the first half.

Seton Hall chose to shoot from three-point range, but made just seven of 23 tries. Gaze and Morton were a combined five-for-17 from long range.

Each team used a variety of players on the best shooter for the opposition. Three Pirates chased Rice -- and Rice was one of those who tailed Gaze, the Australian Olympian.

Perhaps because such gigantic gyms as the Kingdome tend to create an impersonal air, this affair lacked its usual intensity. The only banner draped about the place was a dull one that suggesting the obvious: "Get the Ball to Rice."

Michigan quickly increased its five-point advantage at the start of the second half, starting when Mills blocked Walker's shot at one end and scored on a short turnaround at the other.

Ramos follow with a tough layup and foul shot, but Michigan kept pouring it on. Rice scored on a jumper and Loy Vaught on a layup that began with a terrific save by Rice.

Flying out of bounds, Rice flicked the ball half the length of the court to Robinson, who passed to Mills. Vaught had an uncontested layup, so Mills fed him the ball. That gave the Wolverines a 43-35 lead with 17:55 left.

It would get worse before it got better for the Pirates.

Michigan kept hitting and Seton Hall continued cold—and Robinson stretched the lead to 12 points, 51-39, on a baseline drive and behind-the-head dunk with 14 minutes left.

But very soon, Seton Hall acted as though it had the Wolverines right where it wanted them. The Pirates got to the final game by overcoming several leads, an 18-pointer against Duke Saturday being one of them.

They came agonizingly close this time.

"We're never going down without a fight," Walker said. "We just keep playing hard. You have to go out and beat us because we're not going to give up."

"We showed people a lot," Ramos siad. "No one expected us to get this far. They didn't think we were going to get here."

As their new coach cut down the final strands of net, his players chanted: "Fisher, Fisher, Fisher." In the stands was a sign: "Say Yes To Fisher."

© Copyright 1989 The Washington Post Company

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