When CBS cues up “One Shining Moment” in 10 days, you can bet that a prime slot will be reserved for Trey Burke’s 30-foot 3-pointer to send Michigan and Kansas into overtime Friday night.
And when people talk about Michigan’s 87-85 Sweet Sixteen victory, it will be Burke that leads the conversation. The 13 points he scored in a 3-minute stretch spanning the end of regulation and start of overtime turned a seemingly lost cause into an unlikely victory.
Burke will be the first to admit, however that he couldn’t have done it without Mitch McGary.
The freshman had Michigan’s most daunting task — facing the Jayhawks’ 7-foot senior center Jeff Withey. Withey is the nation’s best shot blocker and a sure first-round draft pick in June. McGary was making the third start of his college career.
McGary didn’t dominate the matchup. Withey blocked five shots and altered many more, while McGary struggled to protect the rim at times.
But McGary was the main reason the Wolverines were in position to launch a late comeback. He finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds.Withey ended up with 12 points and eight boards.
“I just wanted to be physical with him — stay behind him and make him shoot over me,” McGary said. “I’m 6-10 and I played every inch of that today. I heard before the game that Jeff thought I was shorter than I am, but I showed him tonight that I’m bigger than he thinks.”
Kansas coach Bill Self thought that, at 260 pounds, McGary was able to push around the slender Withey and help turn the game around.
“Jeff’s light, and Mitch did a great job of bodying him up,” Self said. “We got a lot of points inside early, but they did a much better job of guarding us when the game was on the line.”
McGary set the table, but Michigan still needed Burke to deliver dinner. After missing his four first-half shots, he knew he had to do more attacking in the second half.
“Kansas did a great job of keeping me out of the lane in the first half, and when I did get inside, it is tough to get the ball over Withey,” Burke said. “So I was looking to get my teammates open shots. Coach told me I needed to be more aggressive in the second half, so I started to look for my own shots.”
It still shouldn’t have been enough. Kansas led 72-62 and had the ball with 2:22 to play. The “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” victory chant was starting to roll through Cowboys Stadium, and Self had to be thinking about watching the Florida-Florida Gulf Coast game.
“We had the game right where we wanted it,” he said. “All we had to do was make one more play. We had about five possessions where we just needed to get a stop or fall on a loose ball. We never did it.”
Glenn Robinson III turned a steal into one basket and pulled a loose ball out of the scrum to get an layup in the final minute.
It was Burke who did the rest. He scored five points to get Michigan within three, and when Elijah Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one, Burke didn’t hesitate with seven seconds to play.
“Coach said to look for a two,” Burke said. “But I knew we didn’t have much time, so when they switched, I saw I had a shot,”
It wasn’t an easy shot — 6-foot 8 Kevin Young was running at him — and Burke has missed previous attempts at buzzer-beating 3-pointers. This time, though, he calmly drained it.
“Every time he’s had a shot like that, it has gone in and then come back out,” Beilein said. “It isn’t like he’s been shooting airballs in those situations.”
Burke calmed down his teammates, and after they got the stop that sent the game to overtime, he scored on Michigan’s first two possessions in the extra session.
“That kid is just a champion,” Beilein said. “He proved that again tonight.”
Burke will get at least one more chance to prove it on Sunday. In the meantime, he has left one of college basketball’s most-storied programs wondering what happened.
“The national player of the year stepped up when his team needed him,” Self said. “But this game is going to haunt us for a long, long time.”