By Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 29, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas — Trey Burke wasn’t ready for his Michigan career to be over.
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After missing numerous buzzer-beaters over the course of his illustrious two-year career, the sophomore point guard came through in the biggest game of his life, sending Michigan into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994 with a 87-85 overtime win.
Kansas guard Elijah Johnson missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 that would’ve given the Jayhawks a two-possession lead with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, and after an uncharacteristically poor showing for much of the night, Burke drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with four ticks left to send Cowboy Stadium into pandemonium.
Burke said after that the play was drawn up for him to attack the rim and try to get a quick 2-pointer, but as he dribbled it up the floor, his instincts took over.
“I read it,” Burke said. “I seen that they were going to switch. As soon as they switched, I was thinking about going to the rack, but it was about six seconds left, so I was like, ‘Man, step back, get some separation and take your time and shoot it.’ And it went in.”
Did it ever.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Burke scored 23 points in the second half and overtime, turning the ball over just once. He played the entirety of the final two periods.
Kansas scored first in overtime, but Burke scored the game’s next five points and freshman forward Mitch McGary responded to another Jayhawk layup with four points of his own. On the ensuing possession, freshman forward Glenn Robinson III came up with a steal and hit both of his free throws after being fouled, giving Michigan an 87-82 lead. Elijah Johnson hit a 3-pointer to bring Kansas within two, and after a Burke missed layup with nine seconds left, but the Jayhawks final possession turned into a scramble that resulted with a desperation heave from several feet behind the arc, sealing an improbable win for Michigan.
From start until the final minute of the game, the Wolverines (12-6 Big Ten, 29-7 overall) never could sustain any sort of momentum. After managing just a six-point deficit heading into halftime despite an abysmal first half, Michigan fought back to draw its hole to just two after four minutes of second-half play.
But a veteran Kansas (14-4 Big 12, 31-6 overall) lineup endured the punch and pounded back, harder, using a 12-4 run to push its lead back to eight. A few minutes later, a Johnson 3-pointer gave the Jayhawks a 14-point lead. But then the Wolverines initiated a ferocious rally, culminating in Burke’s 3-pointer, which brought Michigan back from down eight with 1:22 left to play.
“We definitely didn't see fear,” said junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. “Everybody knew that the game wasn't over. We've been in this situation before, earlier in the year. And we just had to go out there and gut it out.”
Kansas opened the game by shooting a stunning 67.9 percent from the field, repeatedly tearing into glaring gaps through the Wolverine defense.
But despite the blown opportunities and defensive lapses, Michigan headed into halftime down just 40-34. The Jayhawks pulled off a seamless transition from the pregame layup lines well into the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Kansas had as many first-half points in the paint, 34, as the Wolverines scored in the opening stanza. In fact, the Jayhawks’ first 22 points came inside the painted area, as none of Michigan’s big men could keep Kansas off the boards, and its perimeter defenders were continually beat off the dribble.
“It looked like everybody was a step slow out there, the heat in the building and maybe a little bit of anxiety about going into this game,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “It was tough stopping them.”
Burke was glaringly absent in the first 20 minutes. The All-American missed all four of his field goals and turned the ball over three times — one more than his season average per game — though he did contribute with five assists.
“In the first half, they did a good job keeping me out of the lane,” Burke said. “In the second half, I had a more determined mindset to get in the paint and make (Jeff) Withey play me more so I can drop it off to Mitch. The big fella stepped up again for me tonight.”
McGary’s strong play from last weekend continued throughout the game. In the first half, he kept Michigan in it, scoring 11 points and pulling down five boards. Once Burke got going, McGary found himself with more room to operate. The freshman finished with a game and career-high 25 points, while also adding 14 rebounds.
McGary is averaging 19.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in the three NCAA Tournament games, both almost two times more than his regular-season averages.
Play was stopped just minutes into the game when Kansas guard Elijah Johnson appeared to punch McGary below the belt. After a video review, refs served Johnson a flagrant 1 foul, but McGary missed the two ensuing free throws, and Michigan failed to score when it got the ball back.
Instead of flying home on Saturday, Michigan will be back on the court practicing in preparation for No. 3 seed Florida. The Wolverines and Gators will square off at 2:20 p.m. Sunday for a chance to get the Final Four.