Another big game, more big plays from Michigan basketball freshman point guard Trey Burke
EVANSTON, Ill. — The horde of media racing toward Trey Burke inside the Michigan basketball locker room had to wait Tuesday.
Moments after Burke dropped in another un-freshman-like performance to help the 11th-ranked Wolverines steal an overtime victory at Northwestern, Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer had the team's rookie floor leader in a bear hug.
At Burke's feet sat another assistant coach, an exhausted-looking Bacari Alexander.
"I didn't know winning could be this tiring," a normally exuberant Alexander said with a grin.
A freshman point guard can put more than a few gray hairs on the heads of a basketball staff. But in the case of Burke, the coaching contingent is more than willing to welcome those aging signs with open arms.
Because in Trey, they trust.
After Michigan had clawed its way back to a late-game tie, the Wolverines were faced with one final regulation possession to grab the win.
With Michigan inbounding the ball from the sideline with 4.7 seconds to play, coach John Beilein drew up a play for Burke to catch the pass, dribble into the lane and then make a play for the win.
"We wanted him to turn that corner and make something happen," Beilein said. "It's something that we worked on."
Everything seemed fine. Except Burke never turned the corner.
Once Northwestern hedged the initial screen, Burke backed up and eventually forced an off-balance, last-second 3-pointer.
It never drew iron.
"Zack (Novak) was right to the right of me, wide open," Burke said. "I told him, 'My fault,' and I'd get it back for him in overtime."
The miss finished a second half that featured 10 points from Burke, but no assists. He didn't have any turnovers, but Michigan wasn't getting a great number of open looks.
But the Wolverines didn't care. They had an overtime to play, and they knew Burke would have to play a big role.
"He was beating himself up a little bit," Novak said. "We told him to get it back in overtime, it was over."
Burke began the overtime where he left off, missing a 3-pointer. But with a message from Beilein to keep firing, the he kept cranking. And the next time he had an open triple, he took it.
It was pure, breaking a 49-49 tie.
And one trip later, Burke made good on his word with Novak, finding him for an open triple, putting Michigan up six. One minute later, he teed up another look, this time for Stu Douglass.
And once Douglass' shot found the bottom, Michigan had a nine-point lead, Northwestern took a dejected timeout and the Wolverines had effectively wrapped up their fourth consecutive victory.
Burke's 19-point performance moved him a single point past Tim Hardaway Jr. for the team's scoring lead this season. He's averaging 14.3 points per game.
He's not likely to catch Jalen Rose's freshman record of 597 points in a season, as Burke sits with 401 and three regular-season games to go. But he should, at some point, pass Gary Grant for Michigan's all-time assists mark — he finished the Northwestern game just seven shy of breaking Grant's mark of 140.
His performances this season have been spectacular, surprising and historic.
But now, they're just expected.
"I liked our poise," Beilein said. "And Trey had the ball in his hands most of the time.
"For all 45 minutes."
He doesn't always make the right decisions, he doesn't always make the simplest play. Sometimes he shoots when he should pass, sometimes he passes when he should shoot.
But so far, it hasn't mattered. He's been Michigan's best player this season.
Gray hairs or not.