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(4) Michigan 87, (1) Kansas 85: I Been Here For Years

Michigan took on the first-seed Kansas Jayhawks in Cowboys Stadium in what was the most important Michigan basketball game in many, many years.

That look.
That look.
Tom Pennington

The ball went up and for a moment got lost in the great vastness of the dome, for a moment floating so far away that it seemed like a game would not be played and we would all be forced to go home and wait for it to come down.

Michigan got off to a poor start on the defensive end, featuring a relatively easy Elijah Johnson drive past Trey Burke for a layup. The Wolverines answered with a solid pick and roll, bringing Jeff Withey away from the basket and allowed Mitch McGary layup.

Shortly thereafter, Johnson angered the beast with a dirty foul to the, uh, nether regions of McGary, who unfortunately went on to miss both of the free throws the officiating crew awarded Michigan.

Tim Hardaway Jr. had a rough start, missing a jumper off of the side of the backboard, somehow, and then failing to convert at the rim in transition.

The Jayhawks started 5/7 from the field in the minutes opening five minutes and change; this would certainly have to change if the Wolverines were going to stay in this one throughout. Withey's shot-blocking ability was evident early in the game on two attempts by McGary and Burke; Withey didn't block the shot, but he did alter them significantly, leading to a miss for the former and an awkward kickout by Burke.

Kansas then rattled off an 8-0 run to go up 20-11, with all of its buckets coming at the rim on a variety of layups, dunks and short floaters. Michigan was offering very little resistance with McGary off the floor and Jon Horford serving as the only big. If Jordan Morgan wasn't going to play in this game, then you would think that we might not see him again this season. He did take the floor after the media timeout alongside Mitch McGary, which was the secret antidote people have spoken about in hushed tones for generations.

It was only the first half, but points in the paint were 20-6 in Kansas' favor at the 11:09 mark and the Jayhawks were 10/14 from the field at this point. If something didn't change, this threatened to enter the danger zone for Michigan.

Unfortunately, the JMo entrance didn't have an auspicious start, as Jamari Taylor dove right around him for two. On the other end, Morgan got his shot blocked at the rim, although he did recover in order to draw a foul (and hit 1/2 from the line).

In a bit of poetic justice, Johnson picked up his third foul in the game's 11th minute. Insert Nelson "HA HA" here.

Outside of the sieve-like defense, Burke and Hardaway combined for three points through about 12 minutes of play, which included a pretty brutal three from Burke in an obvious attempt to quiet the crowd.

The Jayhawks jumped out to a 27-17 lead, but Michigan started to battle back a bit, paced by Mitch McGary, who for the second game in a row was looking like Michigan's best player. In any case, Michigan found itself down just 29-23 after all of Kansas' easy work in the paint.

In an uncharacteristic stroke, Spike Albrecht came in to spell the still scoreless Burke, committing a very unforced turnover leading to a Kansas transition bucket. Michigan really couldn't afford things like that in a game like this, but so it goes.Speaking of rough turnovers, Burke's throwaway at the 4:51 mark killed a great opportunity to cut the lead down from 29-23.

As the halftime break approached, it became a "can we just by down by this much?" sort of game. Despite Burke's lack of scoring, a pair of and-1 scores from McGary and Stauskas kept Michigan in it, the latter on a shot from beyond the arc.

Michigan went into the half down 40-34. Kansas shot 68% from the field and Trey Burke scored zero points. If that's not a "win" for Michigan in the grand scheme of a 40 minute game, I don't know what is. All things considered, this game should have been over, but Mitch McGary and some solid drive-and-dishing from Burke to open corner shooters did the trick.

However, in the second act, Burke would need to put the ball through the cylinder if Michigan was going to tie it up and, eventually, win.


Michigan showed some life early, cutting the lead to three, a run featuring Burke's first points of the game on a NBA-range three from up top. He started to heat up, big time, scoring seven points in the half's first four minutes, including a beautiful pair of finishes in the paint, the latter coming with Withey looming behind him.

I don't know where else to put this, so I'll just put it here: in addition to the offensive firepower McGary brought to the game (he probably did about as well as anybody else has done in challenging Withey down low), he also seemed to reel in every board on the defensive glass. By the 16:02 mark of the second, he already had nine rebounds (Michigan had 17 as a team). This, my friends, is the definition of CRUNK.

Michigan cut the lead to 46-44, but an explosive display of athleticism from Kansas took the lead all the ay back to 10, 56-46, in seemingly an instant. The difference in raw athleticism was stark.

In addition to athleticism, the disparity in pure size was obvious. Just like against Wisconsin's Ryan Evans, Glenn Robinson III got dominated on the block by the larger Perry Ellis all game. It was the equivalent of a defensive lineman executing a simple bull rush, over and over again. Ellis didn't need to swim or spin or manufacture any sort of space, like a linemen attempting to beat Jake Long or Taylor Lewan. But, you know, he's just a freshman. Unfortunately, he's "just a freshman" playing in a Sweet 16 game, where nobody really cares how old you are.

About 11 minutes into the second half, after yet another easy Releford drive for two, it was starting to become clear that no matter what Michigan did on offense, the defense simply did not have enough stops in it.

Despite cutting it to two earlier, Michigan was down 65-54 with 7:38 to go. The outlook was grim. I would be lying if I didn't begin flashing back through the rest of the season that was at this point. A Johnson three extended the KU to 14, and the vultures started to circle.

A pair of quick buckets from Michigan, however, cut the lead down to 10, spurring a Bill Self timeout. Nevertheless, Michigan needed stops.

After Jordan Morgan improbably nailed the front end of a one-and-one, Michigan was down nine with just over five minutes to go, needing a stop at the other end. The Wolverines played a full shot clock of terrific defense, sticking with the Jayhawks despite their terrific ball movement. The possession ended with a Naadir Tharpe miss...that Kevin Young tipped in. It was a backbreaking moment in a long half and game full of such moments. Adding insult to injury, Stauskas missed the front end of a one-and-one, his second miss free throw of the game, of course coming on the heels of Steve Kerr lavishing him with encomia about his shooting form. Of course.

Once again, Michigan didn't go away. A couple McGary buckets and a thunderous GRIII dunk on a turnover cut the lead to just six, 72-66, with just 1:55 to go. It was hard not to look at Michigan's FT% at this point and wonder what could have been (Michigan was 7/15, FWIW).

After a pair of Releford free throws following a somewhat questionable call, Burke buried a three to cut the lead to five with 1:12 to go. Michigan had life and didn't need to foul on the ensuing defensive possession.

Michigan got that stop, somehow, and GRIII finished at the rim at the other end after grabbing a missed THJ three. Improbably, Michigan was down three with 28 seconds to go.

Michigan fouled Johnson late, down three with 13 seconds to go. Johnson missed the front end....then it happened.

Burke took the ball down the floor, McGary seemed to fall on the ball screen and then Burke unleashed a three from Lubbock. Burke rose from the left wing, fired, and buried the tying shot with 4.2 seconds remaining. Kansas failed to score out of the timeout and on to overtime the game went.

Michigan was down 14 with 6:58 to go in the game.


In overtime, it was all Trey Burke. He nailed a three to start the OT period then hit a long two from up top. McGary answered a Young layup with a little 14-footer of his own, and another about a minute later.

Michigan's defensive intensity and general grit seemed to go up to 11 in the OT period, jolted alive by Burke's game-tying end of regulation bomb.

A GRIII steal led to a pair of free throws that upped the lead to five, 87-82. A three from the heel of this game, Elijah Johnson, cut the lead to two with 47 seconds to go. Michigan had the opportunity to bleed the clock down and either end the game with a bucket or give KU 12-15 seconds to do something of their own.

Beilein called a timeout with 23 seconds to go and 14 left on the shot clock to draw something up. Burke drove free but Withey swatted it and altered a McGary putback attempt. The possession ended in a shot clock violation, giving KU eight seconds to go the full length of the floor to tie or win it with a three.

After the officials gave KU the equivalent of 38 timeouts, the Jayhawks brought it up the floor and a frantic series of events led to a circus three-point shot from Tharpe. The entire time the ball was in the air, visions of Evan Turner, Josh Gasser and Ben Brust's game-winning shots rushed through my head. Every tenth of a second the ball remained in the air, a reprisal of those events seemed to increase in probability.

The ball glanced off the glass and harmlessly landed on the Cowboys Stadium hardwood. There was no time left on the clock, and the score read: Michigan 87, Kansas 85.

This is getting long, and there's much more to say...but I'll leave it for tomorrow. Burke is the obvious hero of this game, but Mitch McGary had an even better game than he did against VCU, scoring 25 points on 12/17 from the field (!!!) and 14 rebounds. Withey won his battles, but McGary, a freshman, looked like much more of a player than the senior Withey. McGary was the best front court guy on the floor tonight, but the issue pre-comeback was that KU simply had more quality front court guys to roll out than Michigan.

For now, try to get your heart rate down to a normal level, sit back and watch UF-FGCU and find the nearest person to go WOOOOOO with. Personally, I'm going to go ponder the nature of space and time and reality and Trey Burke.