Burke’s big game not quite enough
ATLANTA (AP) – With a national championship slipping away in the final minutes, Trey Burke raced back on defense and gave Michigan fans one more spectacular play to remember.
The 6-foot point guard hustled to the basket and leaped high in the air to block Peyton Siva on a Louisville fast break. There was only one problem: Burke was called for a foul.
No matter what the Wolverines and their best player did on this night, it wasn’t quite enough.
Burke scored 24 points in what may have been his final college game, and backup Spike Albrecht added 17 in the first half Monday night, but Michigan couldn’t hold off the Cardinals, who wore the Wolverines down in the second half and took the national championship with an 82-76 victory.
“I’ve had a lot of really good teams over the years, and some emotional locker rooms, and that was the most emotional we’ve ever had,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We feel bad about it. There are some things we could have done better and get a win, but at the same time, Louisville is a terrific basketball team.”
With Burke on the bench in early foul trouble, the seldom-used Albrecht filled in with a barrage of 3-pointers. The Wolverines led by 12 in the first half, but by halftime that advantage was only one after Luke Hancock shot Louisville back into the game.
In the second half, Michigan simply couldn’t prevent Louisville from scoring. The Wolverines finished at 52 percent from the field and 8 of 18 from 3-point range, but when they fell behind late, they weren’t able to string together enough stops for a rally.
The biggest problem for Michigan was rebounding. The Cardinals had 15 offensive rebounds and won despite a 3-for-16 night from guard Russ Smith. Freshman big man Mitch McGary, who had come almost out of nowhere to have a terrific tournament for Michigan, had only six points and six rebounds. He was limited to 29 minutes with his own foul trouble.
“When Mitch is out there, he’s a difference maker,” Beilein said. “When he’s on the bench, that’s difficult, as well as Trey.”
Michigan (31-8) trailed by four with about a minute to play, and Caris LeVert appeared to come down with a big defensive rebound for the Wolverines.
But he was ruled out of bounds. After that, Louisville had control.
Michigan is still seeking its first national title since 1989. The Fab Five fell one win short in both 1992 and 1993. Those former Wolverines were in the building Monday, but Michigan had to settle for another runner-up finish.
Fab Five standout Jalen Rose was in the Michigan locker room afterward.
“There’s a lot to build on, a lot to be positive about,” Rose said.
But Burke may not be back. He considered leaving for the NBA last year but decided to return for his sophomore season. He was named AP national player of the year last week, and now he has a decision to make.
“Honestly I’m not thinking about it right now,” he said. “This game hurts so much, that’s something that I’ll just talk over with my coaching staff, my parents really over the next couple of weeks.”
Burke picked up his second foul with 11:09 left in the first half and played only 6 minutes before the break. The 5-foot-11 Albrecht – who was averaging 1.8 points per game on the season – made four straight 3-pointers and had Burke watching on in amazement from the sideline.
“If there was a point guard I want coming off the bench, it’s Spike Albrecht,” Burke said. “Each and every game he’s going to give you 110 effort. He’s going to make plays for you. He may not win the look test, but he’s going to make plays for this team. He has a bright future.”
But Michigan led only 38-37 at halftime, and although Albrecht and Burke both played plenty in the second half, those short, quick guards aren’t necessarily much help around the basket. That’s where Louisville did a lot of its damage.
On that memorable late play, Burke showed off his vertical leap when challenging Siva’s shot, but a foul was called and the two free throws put Louisville up 69-64 with 5:09 remaining.
In those desperate final minutes, Burke kept driving to the basket. He stayed down for a while after drawing a foul with 6:36 remaining, and took another hard fall with 2:24 to go.
“It hurts a lot because we came together as brothers. I just love every single one of these guys,” Michigan freshman Nik Stauskas said. “It was a great game. Everyone saw two really good teams go at it and give everything they had.”