By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 12, 2012
For the first 20 minutes of Monday night’s game, the Michigan men's basketball team looked like it was still basking in its season-opening victory over Slippery Rock on Friday.
The Wolverines looked lead-footed on defense and they settled for the outside shot on offense, letting Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis stay within four points for the majority of the first half. At times, IUPUI was simply playing harder than the Wolverines, especially on defense.
But with three seconds remaining before halftime, sophomore guard Trey Burke stole the ball and took it to the rim, getting fouled in the process — a defensive effort that was a rare occurrence in the first half. He sank the two free throws and gave the fifth-ranked Wolverines some momentum going into halftime.
And it showed. Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III nailed a 3-pointer on Michigan’s first possession of the second half, sophomore guard Trey Burke made a layup in transition 30 seconds later, and the Wolverines defeated IUPUI in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-off, 91-54.
“The first half, there were some moments (where) I thought we were going to be in a long battle,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “They were shooting the ball well and guarding us well — putting pressure on us that we hadn’t seen yet. Once we got accustomed to it, we were fine. Early, we had some adjustments we had to make, just personally, to get ready for that type of pressure.”
Though the game looked like a routine victory, Michigan had issues on defense for most of the game. The Jaguars broke the Wolverines’ man-to-man defense early in the game with screens and beat its zone by making extra passes to open shooters. And at one point in the second half, the Wolverines were caught on their back foot as IUPUI broke into a three-on-one fast break.
“Credit to IUPUI, they did a great job of getting us uncomfortable at the beginning of the game,” said junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. “They did a great job of breaking us down. That’s one thing that we really need to focus on on the defensive end — once the team is breaking us down, we have to do a great job of just staying mature and moving on to the next play. Just being able to adapt to their offense and get a little more reps throughout the game, we really caught on to what they’re doing.
“I think we just did a great job of making plays down the stretch and throughout the game to get better looks — that’s just the maturity of this team.”
Michigan also struggled to control the ball, coughing it up 13 times, but it allowed just seven points off of turnovers. IUPUI played tenacious defense in the first half, and the Wolverines just didn’t have energy.
But the offense stole the show. Shots were falling for the Wolverines all game as they have been all season — Michigan hit 60 percent of its field goals and went 13-for-21 from beyond the arc in Monday’s game.
Burke led the Wolverines, scoring 22 points and dishing nine assists, and Robinson tallied 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting — he was perfect from the field until the six-minute mark of the second half.
With a slew of terrific shooters, the Wolverines saw five players in double digits — freshman guard Nik Stauskas had 11, and redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan and Hardaway, Jr. tossed in 10 — and had plenty of contribution off the bench. The reserves had 28 points, and the bench was almost cleared, except for freshman guard Caris LeVert, with three minutes left in the game.
“I don’t think this year our problem will be scoring,” Burke said. “That’s just the reality of the situation. (But) the defensive side is something that we’re working towards ... I think that’s one thing we need to mature on.”