Michigan Basketball has enjoyed a historic season. It started with a preseason NIT championship, a school record 16 straight wins to begin the season and an incredible NCAA Tournament run. Here are 10 key moments that helped propel Michigan to the Final Four.
10. Late game misery: All teams will face adversity and Michigan had more than their fair share of it this season. In a loss at Ohio State, Trey Burke’s potential game-tying three at the buzzer was halfway down and inexplicably rimmed out. At Wisconsin, Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a clutch triple with 2.4 seconds left to play, giving Michigan a 60-57 lead. The Badgers responded by perfectly executing a hail mary play as Ben Brust drained a 40-footer to send the game to overtime, where Wisconsin would eventually win. Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment came in the regular season finale, with a share of the Big Ten title on the line. With 13 seconds left to play Cody Zeller scored to put the Hoosiers up 72-71. Michigan had the ball and a chance to win the game. Trey Burke drove to the hoop and put up a shot that just missed. Jordan Morgan, who was in perfect position, tipped back the missed shot. It bounced off the glass and looked like it was heading for the bottom of the net when it hit the front of the rim and agonizingly rolled off. All the heartache seemed to strengthen Michigan’s resolve as they began their quest for the NCAA Championship.
9. Second half surge: On February 24th, Michigan trailed Illinois at the half 31-28. The Wolverines completely dominated the second half, outscoring the Illini 43-27. Michigan shot 54.2% from the field and held Illinois to 40.9% and to 3 of 10 from long range. Coming into this game, Michigan had lost 3 of their last 5 and the Wolverines were struggling with their confidence and consistency. This second half surge helped revive the Wolverines down the home stretch of the regular season.
8. Trey Burke sparks a run: In Michigan’s third round game against VCU, the Rams had gone on a run to pull within one point at 18-17 with 10:40 to play in the first half. Trey Burke knocked down a a jumper that ignited a 14-2 run during which VCU would not score for nearly five minutes. That run propelled Michigan to a 38-23 halftime lead and the Wolverines would never look back as they drubbed the Rams by a final score of 78-53 and punched their ticket to the Sweet 16.
7. Preseason NIT Champs: After opening the season with easy victories over Slippery Rock, IUPUI and Cleveland State, Michigan faced a big early challenge in the NIT semifinals and finals when they played Pittsburgh and Kansas State. The Wolverines rolled past both teams and claimed the preseason NIT Championship. This was the first sign that this team was going to be something special.
6. Hardaway rains threes on Ohio State: Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a game-high 23 points and knocked down a career high 6 three-pointers to help Michigan defeat Ohio State. Hardaway was 5-5 from three-point range in the second half.
5. The Block: As mentioned above Tim Hardaway Jr. came up big with his three-point shooting in a victory over Ohio State. With Michigan leading 76-74 in overtime, Aaron Craft drove into the lane for a potential game-tying shot as time expired. Instead of sending the game into double OT, Craft’s shot was rejected by Hardaway Jr, securing a key victory for Michigan.
4. 6-for-6: In an Elite Eight matchup against Florida, Nik Stauskas was on fire from beyond the arc. The freshman was 5-5 from three-point land in the first half to help Michigan bury the Gators early. Then in the early moments of the second half, when Florida went on a 6-0 run and looked like they might make a game of it, Stauskas drained his sixth triple of the game to end the Gators rally and spark a 9-2 Michigan run. The Wolverines never looked back and rolled past Florida and into their first Final Four since 1993. Stauskas finished the game a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown and scored a game-high 22 points.
3. The Start: During the regular season Mitch McGary averaged 17.4 minutes of playing time per game and started twice. When Michigan opened the 2013 NCAA Tournament against South Dakota State, John Beilein decided to insert McGary into the starting five. The freshman big man responded with 13 points and 9 rebounds in 25 minutes of action. For an encore against VCU, McGary erupted with 21 points and 14 rebounds in 34 minutes. Next up was a Sweet 16 matchup against Kansas and their 7-foot big man, Jeff Withey. McGary outplayed Withey and made history with his 25 point, 14 rebound performance. McGary joined Blake Griffin (2009) as the only players in the last 15 seasons with consecutive games of 21+ points and 14+ rebounds in tournament play. In Michigan’s Final Four clinching victory over Florida, McGary scored 11 points and pulled down 9 boards. Through 4 games of the NCAA Tournament, McGary is averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.
2. The Steal: On March 3rd Michigan hosted Michigan State and was trailing 57-56 with 20 seconds left. The Spartans had the ball and were looking to ice the game with a late bucket. As Keith Appling was getting ready to run a play for Michigan State, Trey Burke picked his pocket and threw down a dunk at the other end of the court to give the Wolverines a 58-57 lead. The Spartans had one last chance for a desperation shot, but Burke thwarted that when he stole the ball, again, to secure a victory for Michigan.
1. The Shot: In a Sweet 16 game against Kansas, Michigan trailed by 14 points with 7 minutes left to play, they were down 11 with 3:47 left to play and it appeared that the Jayhawks were going to send them packing. Michigan fought back, but still trailed by 5 with 21 seconds left to play. Then with 14 seconds left, Trey Burke made a layup to cut the deficit to 3 at 76-73. Elijah Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one and Tim Hardaway Jr. pulled down the rebound. Trey Burke brought the ball up court and with 5 seconds left to play, Burke pulled up from 30 feet away and hit a historic three-pointer to tie the game. Michigan would go on to win in overtime as Burke finished the game with 23 points and 10 assists. He became just the fifth player in NCAA tournament history to score at least 20 points and dish out at least 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game. You can watch the video of Burke’s shot here: Trey Burke with a shot for the ages.
So there you have it, 10 key moments on the road to the Final Four. Did we miss something? If so let us know in the comments below.
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