AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The panic lasted less than four minutes of actual time and less in basketball time, but for a moment, everyone on the Michigan bench Thursday had to contemplate playing without point guard Trey Burke.
With 11:01 remaining in Michigan’s 71-56 win against South Dakota State, Burke went up for a rebound and got tangled with the Jackrabbits’ Nate Wolters. Burke’s legs were taken out, and he landed hard on the court (Courtesy of the Big Lead). As a trainer helped a groggy-looking Burke from the court, the Palace PA system blared one-hit wonder Chumbawamba’s one hit, Tubthumping. (Remember? “I get knocked down/but I get up again/You’re never going to keep me down.)
All sorts of horrible scenarios must have danced through the heads of the Wolverines, who knew VCU (with its Havoc defense) was their likely next opponent. Fortunately, Burke came jogging back from the locker room only minutes later and jumped back into the game as soon as possible. “I hit my elbow and my back and a piece of my head, but I’m fine,” Burke said afterward. “My elbow’s a little sore, and my tailbone is a little sore, but besides that, I’m fine.”
What else is fine? The Wolverines’ confidence after several players rose to the occasion while Burke had a rough shooting night. Burke scored only six points and made just 2-of-12 field goal attempts, but Glenn Robinson III scored 21 on 8-of-9 shooting and Tim Hardaway Jr. added another 21. Perhaps the most encouraging development was the 13-point, nine-rebound night for Mitch McGary, who replaced Jordan Morgan in the starting lineup Thursday.
It was only McGary’s third start of the season. The other two came earlier this season when Morgan was recovering from an ankle injury. But after a tough stretch for Morgan in last week’s Big Ten Tournament, Wolverines coach John Beilein thought Thursday was the time for a change. But that wasn’t all Beilein changed. Instead of spelling McGary with Morgan, Beilein instead used Jon Horford, the younger brother of Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford. Horford scored two points and grabbed four rebounds in 14 minutes, while Morgan played just one minute. “Jordan’s injury still has him in a bit of a funk,” Beilein said. “So we just said we’re going to go with Mitch as No. 1, Jon as No. 2. Really, I think it’s obvious what Mitch can bring to us at times, but don’t count Jordan out. He’ll be back.”