NEW YORK — With seven seconds left on the shot clock in the last possession of the first half, Michigan point guard Trey Burke was isolated at the top of the key. Poised, Burke juked out the defender with a crossover and went in for the easy layup to end the half.
This was nothing new for Burke. But playing at the pristine Barclays Center — home of the Brooklyn Nets — Burke looked like he belonged on the black-and-white NBA court.
The sophomore led all scorers with a season-high 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting, commanding the No. 3 Michigan men’s basketball team to a 81-66 victory over West Virginia.
“If (Trey) sees an opening, he’s going to take it,” said junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. “That’s what we love about him — he’s an aggressive guard when he needs to be and he’s very composed. Whenever he needs to score, he can score. ... (he’s) just an all-around player.”
Added West Virginia coach Bob Huggins: “He’s really good. ... I love Trey, I loved Trey since he was a little kid, I think he’s terrific. ... What’s really good about him is he passes the ball to the right guy. ... Eight assists and no turnovers is a pretty good day’s work. He has the ball all the time, and that’s good coaching.”
Trailing for most of the game by double digits, the Mountaineers (4-5) cut a 15-point deficit to as little as seven with less than five minutes to play in the game. Led by good defense, offensive rebounding and a couple of key 3-pointers, West Virginia gave Michigan somewhat of a late-game scare.
“We knew we were going to meet this type of challenge with the defensive intensity they have — (they) crawl up into us and play a no-catch type defense,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We couldn’t get the back doors that we wanted so we went to a dribble drive, and it wasn’t always pretty.”
But the Wolverines (11-0) responded. Despite shooting just 67 percent from the line, Michigan nailed 8-of-10 free throws while holding the Mountaineers to no field goals and just two free throws over the final four and a half minutes of the game.
The brand-new arena was packed with maize and blue, and the crowd’s presence was felt immediately. Michigan took an early 24-7 lead on an eight-point effort from Hardaway just seven minutes into the game.
Flanking Burke — who rounded out the stat sheet with eight assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers — Hardaway rebounded from a scoring slump and returned to the form he showed in New York three weeks ago, when he was named the NIT Season Tip-Off MVP. After the early scoring run in the first half, Hardaway fell silent, but returned in the second half to finish with 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting and added four rebounds.
“He’s been on fire,” Beilein said of Hardaway’s daily performance. “Once he hits that first couple (shots), you’re hoping it’s going to continue, but I see this every day in practice right now. I know he’s had some games, but it was like ‘Tim, if you don’t take that shot, I’ve got to take you out.’ We want our guys to take shots they make in practice.”
Similar to the second-half run, the Mountaineers made a run of their own late in the first half, scoring 10 unanswered points to cut the Wolverines’ lead to five. West Virginia guard Terry Henderson was seemingly unguarded during the three-minute Mountaineer comeback, but Henderson was silenced for the remaining four minutes, and Michigan regained a comfortable 11-point lead heading into the locker room. Henderson finished with 23 points for West Virginia.
The Wolverines led by as much as 18 points in the second half before the Mountaineers’ late 14-7 run.
“I’m sure with the outcome of the game, I’m glad we got out to that (run), obviously, because it would’ve been tough to sustain (West Virginia’s) run,” Beilein said.
Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III and freshman guard Nik Stauskas complemented the Wolverines’ two experienced guards with eight and 10 points, respectively. Redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan added eight points to round out the starters’ scoring, while Michigan’s bench added just three points.
Robinson added seven rebounds and the Wolverines sustained their trend of out-rebounding opponents, this time barely edging out West Virginia, 32 to 29.