ARLINGTON, Texas – Trey Burke never doubted he could lead Michigan to its deepest NCAA tournament run since the Fab Five era.
Not after a scoreless first half. Not when the Wolverines trailed top-seeded Kansas by 14 with less than 7 minutes left — or by 5 with 21 seconds left.
And definitely not when he got the ball in his hands and the seconds draining away.
Burke scored all 23 of his points in the second half and overtime, including a long, tying 3-pointer in the final moments of regulation as Michigan rallied to beat Kansas 87-85 in the South Regional semifinals Friday night.
"We never lost faith out there," Burke said. "We stuck it out together."
Ben McLemore had 20 points to lead the Jayhawks (31-6), who looked to be on their way to a third straight regional final before Michigan's improbable rally. Instead, they became the third No. 1 seed to fall in this tournament, joining Gonzaga and Indiana.
"Well, this will certainly go down as one of the toughest games that obviously we've been a part of and I've been a part of," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But props to Michigan for making all the plays late."
That's for sure.
The fourth-seeded Wolverines (29-7) were down five when Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left, but Glenn Robinson III won a scramble for the ball and hit a reverse layup to force Kansas to win the game at the free throw line.
The Jayhawks couldn't do it. Burke's tying shot — he pulled up from well beyond the arc just left of the key — came with 4.2 seconds left after Elijah Johnson missed a free throw and Michigan got the rebound.
Moments earlier, with 21 seconds remaining, Johnson had hit two from the line to keep the Kansas lead at five. Burke had scored on a layup to get Michigan back to within three.
"We never had the mindset that we were going to lose the game," Burke said. "When we were down 14, we knew anything could still happen. It's March, anything can happen."
Michigan went to back-to-back championship games a generation ago with the Fab Five led by Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose. But the folks in Ann Arbor will be talking for years about the shot by Burke under the huge video board Cowboys Stadium, just down the road from where Howard and Rose played their last game together with Ray Jackson and Jimmy King in a regional final loss to Arkansas in 1994.
The Wolverines will play the Florida-Florida Gulf Coast winner the regional final Sunday.
"Just to be able to get this program back to the Elite Eight, it feels good," Burke said. "But we want to go further."
The lead changed hands five times in overtime — the first OT game of the tournament — the last when Mitch McGary, who led Michigan with 25 points and 14 rebounds, hit a short jumper with Johnson in his face to put Michigan ahead 83-82.
The Jayhawks got a stop and had about 9 seconds to tie or win, but a jumbled possession ended with Naadir Tharpe missing a running jumper at the buzzer.
"We played like we were trying to hold onto something instead of just continuing to play," Johnson said.
Burke had eight points in the closing 14-4 run that tied the game, then gave Michigan its first lead since early with another long 3-pointer to make it 79-78 early in overtime. He hit a jumper on the next possession as well. After failing to score in the first 20 minutes, Burke ended his drought by scoring eight straight points early in the second half to momentarily cut the deficit to two.
"In the second half, coach told me to be more aggressive so I looked for my shot more," he said.
But Kansas restored a 10-point lead built on controlling the paint, this time with a 3-pointer and a tomahawk dunk on a breakaway by McLemore and a three-point play from Johnson.
Johnson, who picked up three fouls in just three minutes of playing time in the first half, gave Kansas its biggest lead at 68-54 with a 3-pointer from the corner with just under 7 minutes left.
Travis Releford had 16 points for the Jayhawks, while Jeff Withey had 12 points and eight rebounds.
McLemore didn't score again after going to the bench with his fourth foul with 8 minutes remaining.
"We had chance to seal the game, but we made some bonehead plays late," Releford said.
Kansas pushed out to a 10-point lead early by dominating around the basket. McLemore's first basket was the first outside the paint as the Jayhawks scored 34 of their 40 first-half points from inside while shooting 69 percent.
Withey put Kansas ahead 29-19 with a turnaround shot that had McGary shrugging at a teammate and saying, "I'm trying."
McGary wasn't having nearly as much trouble on the offensive end, leading the Wolverines with 11 points and five rebounds in the first half. He picked up where he left off in the third round against Virginia Commonwealth, when he had season highs of 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Michigan pulled within 40-34 at the half when Nik Stauskas hit a 3-pointer and had chance for a four-point play when McLemore bumped him on the shot. But he missed the free throw.
No matter. In the end, Burke was Fab-u-lous and the Wolverines are one win away from the Final Four.