ARLINGTON, Texas – All the elements, some that had been missing, were in place.
Kansas was cooking on offense, its leading scorer had shaken a slump and the veteran Jayhawks had seemingly broken the will of a younger Michigan team.
But it takes a full 40 minutes … or in this instance, 45 minutes … to survive and advance. And over the last eight minutes, Kansas failed to make the plays that makes the difference between winning and losing.
"This will go down as one of the toughest games I've been a part of," said Kansas coach Bill Self, who coached in the 671st game of his career. "Give Michigan credit, they made all the plays down the stretch."
The top-seeded Jayhawks had a 72-62 lead with 2:53 to play but couldn't contain Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke. Along with freshman Mitch McGary, Burke lifted the fourth-seeded Wolverines to an 87-85 overtime victory in the South Regional semifinal Friday night at Cowboys Stadium.
Burke forced overtime with a stone-cold 30-foot 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining. At the end of regulation and the end of overtime, Naadir Tharpe had shots to tie the game that didn't fall. With the majority of the 40,639 in Jerry World Kansas fans, the outnumbered Maize and Blue fans had plenty to cheer about.
"We had the chance to seal the game but we made some bonehead plays late," said Kansas senior Travis Releford, who scored 16 and had a team-high six assists.
When Michigan was inbounding late in overtime, Kansas had six players on the floor. KU fans behind their team's bench yelled and screamed and Kevin Young came off the floor before a technical could be called.
Burke's game-tying 3-pointer was made possible when senior Elijah Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12.6 to play. Kansas wanted to switch, but Burke got free thanks to a McGary screen. Young tried to close out but Burke had an open look to make a tough shot.
"We fought so hard to come back," said Burke, who accounted for 33 of his team's 53 points after intermission. "It really didn't matter how far the shot was. It was either all or nothing. I had a lot of faith in that shot. And it went in."
Kansas made 68 percent of its shot in the first half and five times built a 10-point lead but the Wolverines trailed just 40-34 at halftime.
"We've been a team that's labored offensively but then been really good defensively," said Self, whose team leads Division I in field goal percentage defense. "Tonight we labored defensively and were better offensively. If we could have been our personality and who we are, I think we could have been so much better off."
Burke, who was scoreless in the first half, finished with 23 points and 10 assists, becoming the first player since current Florida coach Billy Donovan, playing for Providence in 1987, to have at least 20 points and 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game. McGary scored a career-high 25, added 14 rebounds and three steals. The 6-10, 250-pound McGary set screens at the top of the key for Burke, who would either shoot or drive. When KU's Jeff Withey tried to block his drives, he would dish to McGary.
Simple, effective basketball.
"I feel bad for Kansas, they really have a good team," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "But the ball bounced our way down the last few minutes, and we keep on playing."
Kansas freshman Ben McLemore missed his first three shots and was 2-for-17 in NCAA play. He finally found the net with a 3-pointer when Michigan tried to go with a 1-3-1 zone. He finished with a team-high 20.
After building its eighth 10-point lead seven minutes into the second half, Kansas stretched its lead to 61-50 on a McLemore three at 11:07. When Johnson made a three from the left corner with 6:51 remaining, Kansas had a 68-54 lead.
A veteran team, the nation's best (statistically) defense, a 14-point lead … as a breathless Michigan fan was heard to say to a friend, "I can't believe we won that game."
With a dozen or so key plays to dissect and discuss, one probably made the biggest difference.
After McLemore's drive rolled off the rim with 39 seconds remaining, Kansas had a 74-69 lead. Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a 3-pointer, the rebound falling to the floor. McLemore stared at it. Michigan's Jordan Morgan went to the floor, dug it out and found Glenn Robinson III for a layup that made it 74-71.
"All we had to do was fall on the ball, the possession was ours," Self said. "We just didn't do it."
"Games on this stage are won by one possession, one or two possessions and we gave up too many," Young said.
The forces that control the NCAA Tournament, the basketball gods if you will, make sure that the breaks even out. In 2008, Kansas used a magnificent late-game rally to force overtime and steal a national championship from Memphis.
Memphis fans are sick of seeing replays of Mario Chalmers' game-tying three and now KU fans can prepare for never-ending reruns of Burke's dagger. The tables turned on the Jayhawks in a way that ended this season in the most bitter of fashions - a game-tying 3-pointer from a player named Trey.
"We were right there where we wanted the game," Self said. "The last three minutes we didn't do a lot of things right, which will be something we'll look back on and regret for a long, long time."