Michigan basketball, in the words of star point guard Trey Burke, “stayed together”. Indeed they did. While fans across the nation were checking out what might be on HGTV or the Food Channel as Michigan was down 14 in the latter stages of the 2nd half, the youngest team in the tournament was just starting to get busy.
John Beilein’s team came roaring back on the strength of heroic performances by Burke and Mitch McGary and stole an 87-85 win to advance to the Elite 8.
Why They Won
They didn’t quit. So many times this year Michigan would fall behind by double digits, bust their butts to draw close, yet fail in the end. They saved their complete comeback for the sweetest of times.
The Wolverines trailed by 10 with under 3 minutes to go and by 5 with about 20 seconds on the clock. It didn’t matter. “If we were going to go out, we were going to go out fighting,” were the words of Tim Hardaway, Jr. after the game.
With Michigan trailing by 3 in the waning seconds, they fouled Kansas guard Elijah Johnson. The same Johnson who popped McGary in the nether-region early in the game. Johnson obliged by missing the front end of a 1-and-1, setting the stage for Burke’s most heroic moment.
Remember Arkansas last year, Ohio State this year, and Wisconsin this year? Burke came up short with long jumpers at the end of the game in critical situations. Tonight, he drilled a 35-footer at the end of regulation to tie the game and force overtime. It was worth the wait.
Armed with fresh momentum, Michigan did just enough to hold on in overtime as Naadir Tharpe’s desperation 3-pointer glanced off the rim, ending the #1 seeded Jayhawks’ season.
All 23 of Burke’s points came in the 2nd half and overtime but it was McGary’s performance that kept Michigan from getting blown out of Dallas. The freshman sensation has saved his best run of the season for the tourney. He turned in yet another double-double with 25 points and 14 rebounds while going toe-to-toe with one of the most intimidating big men in the country – Jeff Withey.
Throughout the game, Kansas absolutely demoralized Michigan in the paint. A series of slashing Jayhawks combined with Withey and Perry Ellis down low were far too much for a Michigan team that was a step slow most of the night and played without the swagger that sometimes makes them special.
To make matters worse, Kansas’ star Ben McLemore regained his touch and led KU with 20 points, pacing 5 Jayhawks in double-digits.
But in the game’s final minutes, the swagger returned with gusto and none of the above mattered. It was Trey and Mitch’s time.
Michigan’s 3 Stars
- Mitch McGary – McGary was easily Michigan’s most valuable player tonight. He poured in yet another double-double despite Withey’s presence in the paint. On top of his 25 points and 14 boards he added 3 steals and a block. Without his performance, Trey Burke never has a chance to play hero.
- Trey Burke – For a long time tonight it looked as if Burke might be fading off into the sunset with another disappointing loss in the tournament. That was not to be his final script. Burke hit every big shot Michigan needed down the stretch and literally carried the team to victory.
- Glenn Robinson III – GR3 stayed hot in the tourney with 13 points and 8 boards, including a huge scrambling, reverse layup late in regulation that pulled Michigan within 3 late. Robinson added 3 steals and hit some big free throws late in the game.
News and Notes
– Michigan played with fire at the free throw line by going just 9-17 on the night but somehow overcame it. They might not be so fortunate next time.
– The Wolverines out-rebounded Kansas 38-35.
– 60 of Kansas’ 85 points came in the paint.
– Michigan won the turnover battle 10-13.
Michigan will play the Florida v. Florida Gulf Coast winner on Sunday afternoon.
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