Michigan confident Trey Burke will bounce back
Trey Burke looked like a different player in the Big Ten semifinals last weekend – one the Michigan Wolverines don’t expect to see again anytime soon.
Burke went 1 for 11 from the field and turned the ball over eight times in a blowout loss to Ohio State on Saturday, but with the NCAA tournament about to start, Michigan is dismissing that performance as an isolated off night. For most of his freshman season, Burke has played splendidly, taking over the point guard duties from Darius Morris and leading the Wolverines to the top of the Big Ten with poise and flair.
”He’s as solid as they come. I have no doubt that he’ll bounce back and be more than all right,” teammate Zack Novak said. ”I haven’t said anything to him since probably we went to Maui (in November) about getting ready for an environment. He’s not fazed by anything.”
Burke certainly hasn’t been intimidated by his crucial role at Michigan. Morris became a star last season for the Wolverines, then left for the NBA. With a vacancy at point guard, coach John Beilein turned over the reins to the 5-foot-11 Burke, a Columbus, Ohio, product.
”He had just an incredible freshman year,” Beilein said. ”He’s such a good player and he really understands the game, and he understands the ebbs and flows of his performances.”
What Burke lacks in size he more than makes up for with quickness, and he shoots more 3-pointers than Morris did, making him a good fit for Beilein’s perimeter-oriented offense. The Ohio State game was only the fourth time this season Burke was held under 10 points. He averages 14.8 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Defensively, he’s athletic enough to match up with other top point guards like Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor. Burke leads Michigan in steals and even blocked shots.
The Wolverines finished in a three-way tie for the Big Ten regular-season title with Michigan State and Ohio State, but they fell short in the conference tournament, looking overmatched in a 77-55 loss to the Buckeyes. Burke was blunt the following day in his assessment.
”We felt like we got exposed (Saturday) and we did,” he said. ”After each loss this year, we’ve bounced back three times harder.”
Michigan hasn’t lost back-to-back games all season, and the Wolverines did split with Ohio State during the regular season. Burke scored a team-high 17 points in a 56-51 victory over the Buckeyes on Feb. 18.
When the teams met again last weekend, Burke couldn’t get untracked against Aaron Craft and the Ohio State defense, but Beilein isn’t about to panic over that one game.
”I watched the video on the way back. Ohio State is extremely talented,” Beilein said. ”I don’t know what you guys think of Aaron Craft, just watching the little things that he does, I think we saw some things that we have to just continue to improve as a team.”
The Wolverines are confident Burke will bounce back, and there’s been no evidence of a protracted slump. In the Big Ten quarterfinals – the game before Ohio State – Burke scored a career-high 30 points in an overtime victory over Minnesota.
Michigan’s next challenge comes Friday in the NCAA tournament. The fourth-seeded Wolverines face 13th-seeded Ohio University of the Mid-American Conference. The Bobcats have their own 5-11 guard, D.J. Cooper, who scores about as much as Burke.
That’s where Burke’s focus is now – on Ohio, not Ohio State.
”I’m just going to make the same type of preparations, same type of game time routine,” Burke said. ”I think we’re playing pretty well. Besides (Saturday), we’ve been clicking. Everyone’s been pretty much on the same page.”