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With family, friends on hand, Stauskas leads 3-point onslaught

Teresa Mathew/Daily
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By Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 7, 2013

“He shot pretty well from 3, eh?”

More than a half hour after the Michigan men’s basketball team finished its blowout win over Houston Baptist, 107-53, a group of 60 of sophomore guard Nik Stauskas’s family, friends and neighbors congregated in the Crisler Center concourse. In thick Canadian accents, those from his hometown spoke giddily of Stauskas’s dominant shooting performance.

Thanks to buses organized by Stauskas’s parents, the group made the four-plus-hour bus trip from Mississauga, Ont. to Ann Arbor. For many, it was the first time watching the guard play in person.

Stauskas knew he had to put on a show for them. With the help of his teammates, his guests should’ve felt right at home from their upper-bowl seats as they watched a continuous party from beyond the arc — one not all that different from what they’re used to seeing in Stauskas’ backyard.

Led by the sophomore’s game-high 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, the Wolverines shot a season-best 16-for-26 from 3, good for 61.5 percent.

“I didn’t expect that kind of shooting, although we are a good shooting team,” said Michigan coach John Beilein.

Michigan connected on 10-of-16 from deep in the first half before cooling off — by just 2.5 percent — in a 6-for-10 second-half performance. While Stauskas’s numbers were the gaudiest, tying his career-high against Florida in last year’s Elite Eight, a few of his other backcourt counterparts proved that hot shooting is contagious.

Freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. knocked down each of his three 3-pointers — matching his career high — as part of a 14-point effort. Freshman guard Zak Irvin matched Walton’s 14 points with a 3-of-5 mark from long range. Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III chipped in with two 3-pointers of his own.

Though the Huskies (3-6) aren’t anything close to the high-caliber opponents Michigan will face regularly when conference play kicks off in three weeks, it was a welcomed sight for the Wolverines after a dismal showing at Duke on Tuesday. At Cameron Indoor Stadium, Michigan (6-3) shot for 3-for-13 from long range. Stauskas, who was face guarded the entire night, missed his only 3 pointer, and the entire team struggled even to find quality looks.

Stauskas is still recovering from a sprained ankle that he suffered in the championship of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. After being sidelined in last week’s game against Coppin State, Stauskas was stifled from start to finish against the Blue Devils.

Stauskas estimated that the ankle is currently about 90-percent healthy.

“It’s getting there,” he said. “It’s not even really hurting anymore. It’s kind of a little bit of stiffness.”

By taking away Stauskas, Duke essentially stymied the entire Wolverine offense. Watching highlight film, the Michigan coaches weren’t happy with the offense’s spacing — a developing pattern from other losses, namely the one at Iowa State.

“I think in the Duke game, there were times where our spacing was horrible so, we definitely worked at that a lot in practice,” Stauskas said. “I was glad that we could see that out there in the game.”

But the team’s pinpoint shooting was a far cry from what Beilein saw in Friday’s preparation for Saturday. Working against a variety of defensive sets, Michigan struggled to shoot the ball in practice.

“I bet you we went 3-for-20 from 3, and the whole idea was just keep shooting and if you get open looks, knock them down,” Beilein said. “We certainly had that opportunity again today and we made the most of it.”