Originally Published: March 29, 2013

Burke doesn't miss this chance for Michigan

By Jason King | ESPN.com


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Time and time again the past few seasons, as the final buzzer sounded after a close loss, Michigan point guard Trey Burke has found himself asking the same question.


Why did those 3-pointers rim out against Arkansas and Ohio State?

Why couldn't he make that final shot in an overtime loss to Wisconsin?

Why did he miss a free throw and layup in the waning moments at Indiana?

"All of them looked good and felt good," Burke said. "I just kept asking, 'Why are they all going in-and-out?'"

Burke never discovered the answer -- but he never lost confidence, either. Instead the Wooden Award candidate just kept firing away in those tight moments, hoping that good fortune would eventually come his way.

It finally happened for the nation's best player Friday -- fittingly, on the biggest stage of his college career.

Burke's 3-pointer with 4 seconds remaining forced overtime in the Wolverines' Sweet 16 showdown against Kansas at Cowboys Stadium. Along with capping his team's rally from a 14-point second-half deficit, the shot gave Michigan a huge jolt of momentum that it used to defeat a deflated KU squad 87-85.

Trey Burke
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesTrey Burke connects on a 3-pointer that forced OT.

The victory gives Michigan a spot in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994. The Wolverines will play Florida at 2:40 p.m. ET on Sunday.

"It's like all of those shots that Trey missed before didn't go in because this one was supposed to," Michigan forward Jordan Morgan said. "When he made it, I looked at my teammates and said, 'We were meant to win this game.'"

Simply draining the clutch 3-pointer would've been impressive enough, but what made Burke's shot even more dramatic was the distance from which it was taken. Burke pegged it as a 23-footer, but it was probably closer to 30.

"We had fought so hard to come back, it didn't matter how far the shot was," Burke said. "It was all or nothing. The season flashed before our eyes those last two or three minutes. I had a lot of faith in that shot, and it went in.

"There were still 4 seconds left. Kansas still had a chance to win [in regulation]. I tried to calm everyone down and let them know the game wasn't over."

But it basically was.

KU's Naadir Tharpe missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and the game went to overtime, where Michigan proved to be tougher than the clearly frazzled Jayhawks.

The Wolverines went up 87-82 on a pair of foul shots by Glenn Robinson III with 53 seconds remaining. A 3-pointer by Elijah Johnson shaved KU's deficit to 87-85, and the Jayhawks had a chance to win it when they got the ball back with 9.4 seconds remaining.

Johnson beat his man into the paint, but Morgan came through with some good help-side defense by sliding over into Johnson's path, forcing the guard to take an extra dribble. Johnson went up for a shot and realized he was too deep.

"The [angle] Johnson had wasn't the best," Morgan said. "He got caught behind the backboard. He would've had to shoot a floater, which would've been a tough shot."

Instead Johnson fired a pass to the perimeter for Tharpe, who missed another 3-pointer at the horn.


Michigan, which trailed by 10 points with 2:19 remaining, had pulled off the most impressive win of the tournament by knocking off the Jayhawks, the No. 1 seed in the South Region.

Freshman forward Mitch McGary finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but there was no question that Burke was the star of the game. Not just on the court, but in the huddle.

"The main thing he kept saying was, 'Believe,'" Robinson III said. "He said, 'We can't lay down right now. We've worked too hard to lose this game by 10 or 15. We've got to cut this lead down. If we don't step our game up right now, this is it for us. We might regret this for the rest of our lives."

Ben McLemore
Shane Keyser/Getty ImagesKansas' Ben McLemore and his teammates walk off the court following the overtime loss.

A sophomore, Burke scored 13 points during a 2-minute, 53-second span that stretched from the 1:16 mark of regulation to the 3:23 mark of overtime.

"There was never a point in time where we thought we were losing," Burke said. "I kept telling my teammates, 'They're going to break.'

"We showed a lot of toughness. A young team in the Sweet 16, down 10 with 3 minutes left … most teams would start fouling and give up. We never did."

Indeed, one of the main storylines entering the game was Michigan's experience and toughness. Or rather, a lack of it.

Wolverines stars such as Burke, McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr. are all freshmen, sophomores or juniors. No one has accused Michigan of being soft this season, but it certainly isn't known as a physical, tough team, either.

Kansas, meanwhile, started four seniors -- all of whom played significant roles on last year's NCAA runner-up squad -- along with freshman Ben McLemore, who is projected as a top-three pick in this summer's NBA draft. And the Jayhawks lead the country in field goal percentage defense (35.8).

None of that mattered Friday.

"The media has been making a big deal about how we're a young team," freshman Nik Stauskas said. "But I don't thing being young affects us as long as we're playing together and playing smart."

Pleased as they were with Friday's victory, Michigan's players know an even bigger test awaits Sunday against Florida. Much like Kansas, the Gators are an experienced squad that will be making its third straight appearance in the Elite Eight.

"We have bigger goals in mind," Burke said. "We're one game away from getting to the Final Four. We're right there. We can get to Atlanta. All of our dreams are right in front of us."

And that's all because of Burke's big 3-pointer in the most important game of his career.

About an hour after he left the court, Burke was presented with the same question he'd asked himself so many times before.

Why did this shot go in when so many others had bounced out?

Burke smiled.

"God," he said, "has a funny way of revealing himself sometimes."

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