- Todd Needle/Daily
By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 6, 2011
Before Friday night’s exhibition game against Wayne State, Michigan assistant coaches Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan gave sophomore forward Tim Hardaway Jr. a slip of paper. It read: “Are you going to rebound?”
“I just answered that question in my head,” Hardaway said.
And then he answered it on the court.
Hardaway was strong on the boards all game, skying for balls above the rim, scrapping for long rebounds and tipping misses to himself. He led the Wolverines with nine rebounds in the Michigan basketball team’s 47-39 win over the Warriors.
But he also took over offensively. With No. 18 Michigan struggling to find scoring all night, Hardaway took it upon himself to keep the game out of reach. He poured in 14 of his 20 points in the second half and accounted for nearly three-quarters of Michigan’s offense in that period.
With 15 minutes left in the game, freshman point guard Trey Burke tossed a lob to the right side of the rim — Hardaway grabbed it and slammed it home.
In the ensuing minutes, Hardaway followed up with two 3-pointers, a fall-away jump shot, and two free throws. He also tossed a fast-break assist to senior guard Zack Novak to cap a Michigan run and put the Wolverines up 45-31 with just five minutes remaining.
“We needed him to do that,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We try to go to him a lot because he and Zack both were the ones that really had a rhythm going. We lost some confidence in that first half, but we needed (that).”
HORFORD THE (BIG) MAN: Though redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan was the starting center last year, sophomore Jon Horford took his place in the frontcourt.
After Horford worked relentlessly and gained 28 pounds in the offseason, the coaching staff decided he was a better option than Morgan.
“Jon’s been showing hard work throughout the whole entire summer and just outworking everybody out there in practice,” Hardaway said. “So he earns it and he’s showing it out there.”
Horford was strong on the boards, collecting six rebounds. He made all three of his field goal attempts — including a nifty spin and bank shot while getting fouled.
Getting fouled, however, was his problem. Horford was 0-for-5 at the free throw line and didn’t seem to have any confidence at the stripe.
There was also an instance in the second half when Horford found himself under the basket with the ball after having been spun around. Despite being in position for a dunk, Horford kicked it out to Hardaway at the top of the key. And though Hardaway drained the 3-pointer, Beilein wished Horford would have taken it up to the basket.
Still, Beilein said he expects to have the same starting lineup for next week’s first regular season game against Ferris State, as the other big men didn’t light it up either.
Sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz struggled to find a rhythm, going 0-for-5 shooting with a turnover, and Morgan also couldn’t find his way into the scoring column in 18 minutes of play.
“Our big guys got to do a better job of finishing when they have the ball — catching the ball, finishing,” Beilein said. “We just got to find what’s the best way for us to get the five best players out there. So that was our first try today.”
NEW ROLE FOR BURKE: It was perhaps the first time in Trey Burke’s life that he had to start a game in a chair.
But when he played, Michigan fans saw exactly what they thought they were getting — a fast, slashing, savvy youngster who made a 3-pointer, got into the lane and showed off his flash with an assist on the alley-oop to Hardaway. He finished with seven points and a team-high four assists.
Despite coming off the bench, he saw the fourth-most minutes on the team and played almost all of the second half.
“I didn’t know how many minutes I was going to play,” Burke said. “I was just ready to play. I was anxious to get out there.”
By time he was called on to replace senior Stu Douglass with 14:44 remaining in the half, he said it only took a few plays before he got into the rhythm of the game.
“Coming off the bench today was better for me because I got a chance to see the game and see the flow of the game,” Burke said. “I noticed that we missed a lot of open shots, a lot of open threes. I needed to get to the rim because we were shooting a lot of threes. We weren’t getting the bigs involved enough.
“I think coming off the bench is good, but I feel more comfortable starting since I’m so used to it.”