At different points throughout this season, Trey Burke, Michigan’s All-American point guard and Player of the Year front-runner, has been accused by fans of playing “hero ball.” He’s been accused of trying to take over games by himself, and perhaps he’s taken a few too many step-back threes.
After a first half in which he was held scoreless and did more passing than shooting, Burke was the hero in the dying seconds of regulation in Michigan’s overtime win over Kansas.
Down three points with 14 second to go, Burke fouled Kansas senior Elijah Johnson to put him on the free throw line in a one-and-one situation. Johnson missed the first free throw, Tim Hardaway Jr. secured the rebound, and Burke got the ball. The 30-foot 3-pointer that Burke hit with a hand in his face to send the game into overtime is now etched into Michigan basketball lore.
Burke explained the confidence John Beilein has in his ability to hit that shot.
“He sees me hit that shot in practice. You guys see the games, when shots go in and out,” Burke said. “I missed them in the past, but tonight it went in.”
In two games against Ohio State, both at home and away, Burke launched a step-back 3-pointer for the victory or late lead. Last season, he took one at the end of a road game against Arkansas. Each time, he caught back rim or the ball rimmed out.
John Beilein said that despite all of that, he keeps going back to Burke in those situations with confidence.
“Most of the misses that he’s had, whether it was at Arkansas, whether it was against Ohio State this year, the ball’s been in. In and out. And he works at them and he’s been great at shot clock time so many times for us. But to win a game just hasn’t happened.
“But we love coaching him because he’s got courage. He wants to take shots like that, and that’s why we’ve let him take them in the past.”
Mitch McGary explodes for another huge game
Combined over Michigan’s past two games, Mitch McGary has scored 46 points, shooting 79 percent from the field, and grabbed 28 rebounds. That’s pretty good. Trey Burke had a better word for it after Michigan’s 87-85 Sweet Sixteen victory over Kansas:
Burke went on: “He’s done a terrific job over the last two weeks of just getting in the gym and getting his mind right. Mitch is that type of guy who can come off the bench and give us a spark or start and give us a spark. He definitely gave us one tonight.”
McGary was matched up with one of the top big men in the country in Jeff Withey, and the freshman center more than held his own. Withey tallied 12 points and eight rebounds, but it’s safe to say McGary got the better of the senior big man on Friday.
McGary showed true offensive versatility, drawing Withey away from the basket with a couple big midrange jumpers, getting fouled while making one of them. He also came up huge in big moments: McGary had four points in overtime, two of them after an offensive rebound and fadeaway jumper on the block to put Michigan up three.
“He says if you play hard in practice, you’re going to earn these minutes. And I play hard in practice, so he allows me to get the minutes in the game,” McGary said after the game Friday. “I go out and have the same mentality and play hard with a lot of intensity and a lot of energy. Trey finds me and Tim finds me for easy drop‑offs, and our team feeds off the energy, so I’m happy.”
Michigan shores up defense down the stretch
The first-half offensive statistics for Kansas were nothing less than staggering: the Jayhawks shot an effective 71.4 percent on field goals and teetered near 1.2 points per possession in the first frame.
Michigan was keeping up offensively, but the Wolverines simply couldn’t stop Kansas on the defensive end. Beilein said he thought both teams were a step slow defensively.
“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,” Beilein said. “Both teams looked tired to me defensively.”
In the second half, however, Michigan clamped down. The Wolverines clearly came out with a renewed defensive focus and played much better, especially in the interior.
“For me, actually, I was helping off Withey a little bit and going for blocks that I couldn’t get,” McGary said of the defensive strategy. “In the second half I just talked to the coaches and made an adjustment just to stick with my man and try to make the guards finish. And I think we did that well and they weren’t finishing as well in the second half.
“Overall I think we tightened up the defense. Only one guy was hitting threes, McLemore and Johnson. But we wanted to be in the gaps and try to gap off when they were driving to the rim.”
Tip times announced: Michigan’s Elite Eight game against Florida will tip off at 2:20 eastern time this Sunday on CBS.