By Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 6, 2013
With three minutes left in the first half and the No. 2 Michigan basketball team leading by just two points, Iowa guard Devyn Marble found an open Aaron White under the basket. White, who had already scored six points, went for a would-be uncontested slam but out of nowhere came the hand of freshman forward Mitch McGary, leaving White with only a fistful of the rim.
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With the crowd on its feet, sophomore point guard Trey Burke quickly pushed the ball up the court for a transition layup, prompting a Hawkeye timeout.
The Wolverines continued their offensive onslaught to close the half with a dunks from McGary, a 3-pointer from freshman guard Nik Stauskas, a highlight-reel transition slam from junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and a buzzer-beating layup from freshman forward Glenn Robsinson III. And after trailing for nearly all of the game’s first 17 minutes, Michigan suddenly had opened up an 11-point lead entering halftime. From there, it cruised to a 95-67 victory.
“I think that we didn’t have a lot of energy coming out and we needed stops on defense,” Robinson said. “Mitch came in and provided us with a lot of energy off the bench.”
The Wolverines cruised in the first three minutes of the second half thanks to two Hardaway 3-pointers and a layup and dunk from Stauskas on back-to-back possessions, and they spent most of the half with a 20-plus-point cushion. The win extends the unbeaten streak for Michigan (2-0 Big Ten, 15-0 overall), which is off to its best start since the 1985-86 season.
After jumping out to an 11-0 lead in Thursday’s 94-66 throttling of Northwestern, Michigan saw itself on the opposite end of a fast start. The Hawkeyes (0-2, 11-4) opened with seven unanswered points to stun the Wolverine faithful on hand for Michigan’s conference home opener.
Michigan spent most of the first half chipping away at Iowa’s lead before a back-and-forth final four minutes which saw three ties and five lead changes. Robinson led the charge for the Wolverines in perhaps his best half in a Michigan uniform. The freshman scored a game-high 14 first-half points while also snagging five rebounds. Burke, who tallied six first-half assists, and Hardaway each added nine points in the opening stanza.
Just minutes into the second half, the Wolverines’ struggles seemed like a distant memory, as Michigan outscored Iowa 49-32 in the stanza.
Robinson torched the Hawkeyes for a game-high 20 points — his second 20-point outing in three games — and also pulled down 10 rebounds for the first double-double of his career.
“I’m finding easy touches close the basket,” Robinson said. “I just took what the defense gave me.”
But while Robinson shrugged off his strong performance, his teammate on the wing was quick with the praise.
“Definitely playing like his dad, ‘Big Dog,’ right now,” Hardaway said, referencing the elder Robinson, former NBA All-Star Glenn Robinson Jr. “He played like a grown man today, and that’s good for us.”
Burke also turned in his second double-double in three games, scoring 19 and dishing out a career-high 12 assists, raising his average to 21.3 points and 9.3 assists in that stretch. The point guard had just one turnover.
“Me being the point guard on this team, I know that it’s really important to make sure Nik gets the ball when he’s open, make sure Tim gets the ball when he’s driving, so I try to value the ball as much as possible,” Burke said. “It’s just a job out there that I feel like that’s my job. We all have jobs to do, and I take that seriously.”
Michigan coach John Beilein was reluctant to call Burke the best point guard he’s ever coached, but called the sophomore “a bit unique.”
“This young man really is special,” Beilein said. “It’s something that very few teams ever experience.”
Not to be forgotten, Hardaway maintained his steady play with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. Stauskas rounded out Michigan’s double-digit scorers with 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep.
The Wolverines’ red-hot shooting picked up right where it left off. After making two-thirds of its threes against Northwestern in a 57.6 percent shooting night, Michigan shot 58.1 percent from the field and connected on 10-of-22 3-pointers on Sunday, while also out-rebounding the Hawkeyes, 41-26.
The 90 points in back-to-back conference games is something Michigan hasn’t done since 2000, and the ease at which the Wolverines score surprises even some of its top scorers.
“It definitely surprises me somewhat, but we know that the offense will always come, we’ve just got to focus on defense,” Hardaway said.