By Matt Tait.
The Kansas University men's basketball team seemed headed to the Elite Eight all night on Friday at Cowboys Stadium.
But then Michigan guard Trey Burke got hot and the Wolverines picked up an improbable, come-from-behind, 87-85, overtime victory over the top-seeded Jayhawks.
Kansas scored its first 20 points in the paint and led by as many as 10 during the first half. However, despite playing most of the way in complete control of the game, the Jayhawks (31-6) never were able to pull away.
KU shot 19-of-28 (67.9 percent) in the first half yet led by just six at the break, thanks to the first-half play of Michigan's Mitch McGary (11) and Nik Stauskas (9). KU held UM stud point guard and potential player-of-the-year, Trey Burke, to no points (0-of-4 shooting), five assists and three turnovers in the first 20 minutes. All of that with starting point guard Elijah Johnson playing just three minutes after picking up three first-half fouls, including a Flagrant 1 on a blow below the belt in the game's opening minutes.
The Wolverines capitalized on their momentum early in the second half, pulling to within two — 46-44 at the 15:48 mark — but KU responded with a 15-6 run to open up a 61-50 lead with 11 minutes to play. McLemore scored 10 points during the stretch and Elijah Johnson and Perry Ellis supported KU's superstar.
KU bumped its largest lead of the game to 14 — 68-54 on a three-pointer from Johnson — with 6:50 left, but Michigan staged a furious rally in the game's final few minutes and sent the game to overtime.
From there, UM (29-7) controlled most of the overtime, where several KU miscues and a last-second three-point miss from Naadir Tharpe on an ill-advised pass from Johnson pushed the Wolverines into the next round.
After missing his first five shots, Ben McLemore broke out of his shooting slump for 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but disappeared late. Travis Releford scored 16, Jeff Withey added 12 points and 8 rebounds, Kevin Young added 12 points, and Elijah Johnson finished with 13 points but also five turnovers.
Burke finished with 23 points (all in the second half) and McGary added 25 to lead Michigan.
Friday's loss was the final KU game in the careers of Young, Withey, Releford and Johnson.
Here’s a quick look back at some of Friday night's action:
• The game turned when: KU blew a 14-point lead with 6:50 left and a 10-point lead with less than three minutes to play. The biggest blow during that stretch was a missed one-and-one attempt at the free throw line by Elijah Johnson that could've put KU up four or five, but, instead, gave Michigan, and a red-hot Burke, a chance to tie the game in the final seconds.
• Offensive highlights: ••• At the 8:48 mark of the first half, Ben McLemore finally knocked in a long-range shot. The three-pointer from the corner put KU up 25-17 and snapped an 0-for-5 start to the game for the red-shirt freshman. ••• With KU leading 51-46 in the second half and Michigan point guard Trey Burke heating up, the Jayhawks benefited from back-to-back Burke miscues to open up a 10-point lead. The first came at the 13:53 mark, when Burke drove the lane, had the ball poked away and saw Ben McLemore race out for the hammer dunk. On the next possession, a Burke miss led to a transition layup and foul by Elijah Johnson, who hit the free throw to put Kansas ahead 56-46. ••• With KU leading 70-62, Elijah Johnson broke down the defense and dished to Kevin Young down low. Young quickly flipped the ball to Withey for the uncontested, monster slam and KU went up 72-62 with 2:52 to play. •••
• Defensive highlights: ••• At the 18:15 mark of the first half, Ben McLemore swatted a layup attempt by Glenn Robinson III in transition. It looked as if Robinson had a clear path to the bucket when he caught the pass from Trey Burke, but McLemore skied to erase the shot. ••• With just under 10 minutes to play in the first half, KU reserve Jamari Traylor pinned a shot by Michigan's Jordan Morgan to the glass, further flexing KU's muscles inside.
• Key stat: Points in the paint. No question. All week, the talk was about KU's strength inside against Michigan's strength on the perimeter. After scoring its first 20 points of the game in the paint, KU finished with 60 points in the paint, good for 70.5 percent of its total. Michigan, meanwhile, scored 40 down low.
• Up next: The loss ended the Jayhawks' season at 31-6. Michigan advanced to play the winner of tonight's Florida-Florida Gulf Coast match-up.