- Adam Glanzman/Daily
By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 21, 2012
Trey Burke’s 3-point attempt as the clock expired escaped the cylinder, and Michigan's hopes of completing an epic comeback found another cylinder: the garbage can.
The freshman point guard’s step-back jumper skidded across the rim, and when the ball came down, the Wolverines (5-2 Big Ten, 15-5 overall) were still winless in true road games, losing 66-64 against Arkansas on Saturday.
“We were trying to just get (Burke) downhill,” said Michigan coach John Beilein about the last play. “Trying to get to the basket, or if they gapped, hit a guy for a three. We weren’t going to get both. So when he tried to turn the corner, he didn’t, then he sort of went for his own, which would have been a great ending.”
Down 20 points in the first half, Michigan cut the Razorback lead to 13 by halftime and then almost came all the way back in the second half.
Redshirt sophomore center Jordan Morgan was instrumental in erasing Michigan’s deficit. He was constantly fed under the rim in transition for dunks, as the Wolverine deficit continued to shrink. Morgan finished with 16 points, half of which came on jams in the second half.
But the Razorbacks’ furious shooting barrage in the first half put enough distance between them and the Wolverines, and Michigan’s comeback attempt at Bud Walton Arena fell short.
The Razorbacks (2-2 SEC, 14-5) made their first 11 shots before the Wolverines had even attempted a free throw — to put them comfortably ahead, 29-10. They used their torrid pace to force the Michigan offense into ugly misses, quick possessions and five turnovers in the opening minutes.
“There were some possessions where they hit some really tough, great shots,” senior guard Zack Novak told UM Hoops. “There was other possessions where we didn’t mark as well as we could have.”
Arkansas pushed its lead up to 20 points before the Wolverines started to claw back. Once the Razorback shooting percentages came back to Earth, the lead came back down, too.
“We’ve got a lot of courage in that locker room,” Beilein said. “We’ve got a lot of tough kids that will not give in to fatigue, won’t give in to crowds. They hang in there.”
After whittling its deficit down to 13 at the half, Michigan was within single digits just five minutes into the second half.
Morgan scored eight-straight points to close the Razorback lead to 49-43 before Arkansas called a timeout to stop the bleeding.
The bleeding didn’t stop, and neither did forms of actual physical harm. Novak clubbed Arkansas guard B. J. Young in the head on a fast-break layup attempt and was called for a flagrant foul.
“All I know is Zack Novak plays hard as can be and plays as clean as can be,” Beilein said. “So I’m sure there was no ill intent.”
But Arkansas wasn’t able to convert on either free-throw attempt or the ensuing possession, and the Wolverine attack continued.
Burke came alive in the final minutes of the game, scoring seven of Michigan’s final ten points, and assisting on a 3-pointer by Novak, which brought the Wolverines within two points.
Novak buried five-of-seven 3-point attempts and led Michigan with 17 points.
In the final minute, Arkansas couldn’t make its free throws and provided the Wolverines with a chance to tie.
Michigan had 15 seconds in its final possession to try to force overtime, but Burke had a better idea — a win.
After looking to find space in the lane to penetrate, he settled for the try at a game-winner and the Wolverines had to settle for yet another road loss.
“It came off my hand right,” Burke told UM Hoops. “Looked good going into the basket. It just didn’t fall.”