Without too many opportunities to prove they’re worthy of a very high seeding in the NCAA tournament, Michigan needed Trey Burke at his best to get back for a humiliating loss at Michigan State not too long ago, and pretty much ensure their state rivals won’t be able to win the Big Ten regular seasons title.
It all came down to Trey Burke with some amazing clutch defense in the final 30 seconds – first a risky gamble and steal off of Keith Appling, breaking away to make it 58-56, and in the final seconds another steal just to make sure the Spartans don’t get a chance to win the game, as Michigan avenged their 23 points loss in East Lansing with a 58-57 win.
I take my eyes off it for a second to see their formation, and there’s Trey going down the other end. We knew that Michigan State was going to come in and try to bully us. But we knew if we held our ground, played smarter down the stretch, we have a shot to win the game.
The Wolverines adapted to the scenario, scoring 44 of their 58 from the paint. Their 75.9% of points coming from the inside is he highest percentage of points scored in the paint by a Big Six conference team in any game in the last two seasons, and also the most points in the paint Michigan State have allowed in the last two seasons.
Michigan needed this win like the deserts need the rain, if I remember the song correctly. After losing to Penn State, the Wolverines needed a win badly in order to not slide too far down the AP Poll, which might not mean much, but has some effect on the final seedings before the tournament. Plus, a rivalry is a rivalry is a rivalry.
I’ve had a lot of those types of steals but our team needed that the most at that time. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t got that steal. Maybe we’d be crushed here if they hit a game-winning shot. It was my job to make a play for this team.
And Michigan didn’t play like winners – this was the kind of game Michigan State wanted. A slug fest, while the Wolverines didn’t make a single three pointer, missing all of their 12 attempts. They become only the third team in the last 16 years to get a win against a top 10 team (the Spartans were #9 before the game). The last team to do so was top-ranked UConn, which won at number-5 Louisville in February 2009. It’s the first time the Wolverines failed to make a 3-pointer since February 1999 in a loss to Northwestern. Before that it was UCLA in 1997.
The win has Burke’s name all over it. This season has Burke’s name all over it. He finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 steals, the 4th player in the last 15 seasons with at least 21 points, 8 assists and 5 steals in a win over a top-10 team, and the first since the 2008-2009 season (Jonny Flynn of Syracuse). Averaging 18.9 points per game this season, Burke is fifth on the accumulated point list when it comes to Michigan sophomores with 1052. He’s trailing Phil Hubbard (1070), Manny Harris (1106), Jalen Rose (1152) and Chris Webber (1218).