Forty minutes of hell.
The term was coined to describe Arkansas’s up-tempo, asthma-inducing offense, but Saturday, No. 3 Michigan flipped the script and used its own distinct style to turn Crisler Center into the Razorbacks’ inferno.
The Wolverines (9-0) countered Arkansas’s up-and-down style with a strong transition game of its own and with superior strength inside. Both guided them to a convincing 80-67 win. The victory gave coach John Beilein his 100th at Michigan. It’s the first time the Wolverines have started the season 9-0 since 1988-89’s national championship season.
With a new player seemingly taking charge each game, a balanced attack supported Michigan on Saturday. Each of the team’s starters scored in double digits, and freshman forward Glenn Robinson III led the team with 17 points on 11 shots.
It didn’t take long for Michigan to wrest control of the game. A 13-2 run nearly halfway through the first half put Arkansas outside an arm’s reach, but Mike Anderson’s team swung back. A fast start to the second half shrunk a 10-point halftime deficit to one by midway through the frame.
“What I really like, is that we did respond during that time,” Beilein said. “And we didn’t respond with some pretty play. We got gutty, garbage buckets that made the difference and then hit a big three.”
The game mirrored last year’s contest in Fayetteville when it was the Razorbacks to jump out to a fast start. Michigan chipped into the lead throughout the second half before falling short at the end, 66-64.
But whereas the Wolverines kept it close until the final possession last year, they shut down the Razorbacks’ comeback emphatically on Saturday.
“I think that’s a sign of a good team,” said sophomore point guard Trey Burke. “It got down to a one-possession game, but we never broke, we never cracked and we stayed together.”
With just under four minutes left, Burke was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. He made two of the free throws to give Michigan a comfortable 68-59 edge.
From there, it was easy. The Wolverines continued to stifle the Razorbacks (4-4) on defense and flourished in transition late in the game, turning that one-point lead into a 17-point advantage. Burke made a difficult, falling-down bank shot in the final minute and followed that with a ferocious fastbreak, two-handed dunk — one in which he was assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
“I haven’t seen that in a long time,” Beilein said about the call.
Redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan was the Wolverines’ rock early. With no one on Arkansas to match his physicality, he scored six of Michigan’s first nine points, drew a charge and was a menace on the offensive glass all game.
He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds — six of them offensive — to rack up his second double-double in a week. With the help of the rest of the frontcourt, the Wolverines outrebounded the Razorbacks 42-26. Eighteen of those came on the offensive glass.
“They were so good in transition, we wanted to limit them,” Morgan said. “By getting offensive rebounds, they weren’t getting defensive rebounds to get out and run.”
Morgan was a big part of the Wolverines’ stout interior defense that kept Arkansas from evening up the game in the second half. Redshirt sophomore Jon Horford was also instrumental in shutting down the Arkansas frontcourt, racking up three blocks.
BJ Young and Marshawn Powell accounted for all of the Arkansas scoring early. It wasn’t until six minutes remained in the first half that a third Razorback scored, when walk-on Kikko Haydar took command of Arkansas’s offense. His 9 points — he had scored six combined this season until Saturday — kept the Razorbacks within shouting distance to finish the half.
“We didn’t know who he is,” Beilein said about the 5-foot-10 junior. “I thought he walked in off the street. What a great story.”
Beilein was happy about his 100th win, and he hopes that the worst has passed with his time at Michigan. With a team like he has this year, those wins may come faster.
“I certainly hope the next 100 at Michigan are easier than the first 100,” Beilein said.