Jayhawks lose to Michigan in Sweet Sixteen of NCAA Tournament
And that’s the toughest part about the NCAA Tournament. In almost every tournament game, no matter how well (or poorly) a team has played in the game so far, every team has the opportunity to win it or lose it in the final two minutes.
As the Kansas Men’s Basketball team returns to Lawrence while the Michigan Wolverines are defeating the Florida Gators, cementing their spot in the Final Four, it shows just how much of a difference those final two minutes can make.
The Jayhawks were playing one of their best games of the year against Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen Friday. They led by double digits for most of the game and looked to be controlling the pace of the game.
Kansas got contributions from all five starters, each scoring in double digits, with good minutes from Perry Ellis off the bench. But the Jayhawks consistently made small mistakes that allowed Michigan to stay in the game and not let Kansas run away with the victory. Some of these were offensive fouls, some were bad possessions, and some were turnovers. No matter what they were, they left Michigan in striking distance with two plus minutes remaining in the game.
Kansas had possession of the ball with a 72-62 lead when Elijah Johnson turned the ball over with 2:22 left in regulation to give up an easy dunk. Next possession, Johnson turned the ball over again, this time conceding a layup to Michigan to cut their deficit to six with 1:55 left in the game.
Kansas would not make a shot again in regulation, Travis Releford and Johnson each made two free throws, while Michigan rattled off seven quick points, five from Trey Burke, to cut the score to just three points with 13 seconds left in the game and Elijah Johnson shooting a one and one.
Johnson would miss the free throw, allowing Trey Burke to take the ball down the court and sink an incredible three pointer over the outstretched hands of Kevin Young to ultimately send the game to overtime.
Overtime was a blur. The teams traded scored until Michigan stepped out to a two-score lead at 87-82 with 53 seconds left in overtime. Somewhat improbably, Johnson hit a three-pointer to cut the score to two. In Michigan’s next possession, there was a missed layup, a block from Jeff Withey, and a turnover, giving the Jayhawks a chance to tie or win the game with ten seconds left.
Johnson took the ball inside, found nothing, and kicked the ball out to Naadir Tharpe at the three-point line. Tharpe had hardly any time to set for the shot and the shot did not go down.
With how quickly the events that took place in the last two minutes of the game, it is hard to determine the cause for the sudden turn around. Many would say that Johnson lost the game. While he did have critical turnovers and a very important missed free throw, nobody else wanted the ball in their hands. Kansas’ leading scorer, Ben McLemore, took one shot, a miss, in the last two minutes of regulation and all of overtime. What it really came down to was that the guy that wanted the ball in his hands at the end of the game for Michigan, Trey Burke, had a better finish to the game than Johnson.
Because of this, Michigan will travel to Atlanta next week to play Syracuse in the Final Four, and all five starters for KU will have played their last game as Jayhawks.