INDIANAPOLIS – For better or worse, Trey Burke plays as if he embraces being the goat or the star after any of his team’s games.
Finishing with a game-high 30-points, the freshman phenom led the No. 10 Michigan Wolverines to a come-from-behind 73-69 overtime victory against the upset-minded Minnesota Golden Gophers.
As the team’s primary ball-handler, Burke did not show much interest in distributing, instead opting to go right at the basket on a number of possessions that did not result in a single pass. But because of his immense natural ability, that approach may have been encouraged by John Beilein and his coaching staff.
“The coaches told me to just take whatever the defense gave me,” said Burke after the game. “The top of the key was open for those eight-foot jump shots in the second half. It allowed us to get into the lane, and we knocked down big shots when it mattered.”
But it’s not just his raw talents that make Burke such an asset to the Wolverines team. He’s a precocious kid who boasts an above-average understanding of the game for someone his age.
“It’s a wonder to have a guy who understands basketball at 19-years old,” Beilein said. “He’s talking to me about things we can do out on the court, and he’s not afraid to take it at people.”
In addition to Burke, the value of seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass were also on display this evening.
Combining for just 11 points, Novak and Douglass were invisible for the first 37 minutes of the game, but hit key shots in the waning moments, showing their experience by stepping up late in a game that for the most part was not going their way.
“[Minnesota] did a really good job of just flying at me,” Novak said after the game. “Thankfully, these guys were so hot, that at the end I was able to get freed up a bit and make some shots.”
Michigan’s perimeter players like Burke, Novak, Douglass and Tim Hardaway Jr. compliment each other so well based on their wide range of skills, and it’s what makes this team dangerous in the NCAA Tournament.
Rebounding remains a concern, but as you saw tonight, they can overcome that deficiency and beat you in a number of different ways.
Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN