No. 4 Michigan ranks among the best shooting teams in America, and when they’re on from the perimeter the Wolverines are a very tough team to beat. So how did John Beilein’s team beat No. 9 Michigan State 58-57 despite shooting 0-of-12 from beyond the arc?
The sophomore point guard was the difference for the Wolverines (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten), scoring 21 points, dishing out eight assists (two turnovers) and racking up five steals. And dunk after picking Keith Appling’s pocket with just over 20 seconds remaining gave Michigan a 58-56 lead.
The Spartans (22-7, 11-5) failed to get off a final shot as Burke picked up another steal, giving the Wolverines a much-needed win following their loss at Penn State on Wednesday. Burke scored 18 points in the 84-78 loss to the Nittany Lions but he finished with as many turnovers (six) as assists.
As Burke goes so goes Michigan, as evidenced by his teammates occasionally leaning too heavily on the sophomore to make something happen offensively. Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 3-of-12 from the field and Mitch McGary was the only other Wolverine to reach double figures, scoring 11 points off the bench. Michigan needed Burke to deliver and he did just that, making plays on both ends of the floor to get the Wolverines over the finish line.
The Wolverines were also out-rebounded 44-29, with Michigan State grabbing 19 offensive rebounds (16 second chance points). But Michigan State also turned the ball over 18 times, which prevented them from taking advantage of Michigan’s poor perimeter shooting.
Is Burke the best player in college basketball? That’s certainly up for debate, with players such as Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr., Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Creighton’s Doug McDermott among the players also in the discussion.
But Burke certainly has a case, and his impact on Sunday’s outcome is the latest example of just how important he is to Michigan.