On a day that began with all of college basketball’s eyes watching as prized recruit Jabari Parker picked Duke over Michigan State, another green-and-white school from the mitten state was dealt a losing hand.
After a 15-minute drive from Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan jumped out to a 6-2 lead at the 18:19 mark of the first half. But over the next eight minutes, the Eagles failed to score, as Michigan used a 20-0 run to put the game out of reach. The Wolverines never looked back, winning 93-54 to stay unbeaten.
The twelve wins to open the season marks the second best start in program history — something that, when asked if he thought about it, Beilein didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“Not a thought,” Beilein said. “I really like winning though, I really like winning and it beats the alternative. But nothing.”
But Beilein did concede to using the ranking for a new team mantra — “Practice like you’re in second place and play like you’re in first place” — which he admittedly “stole” from Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson.
“It’s perfect for what this team needs to do,” Beilein said. “When we practice, we’ve got to practice like we’ve got a chip on our shoulders, we’re trying to get there. And then when you go out there and play, play like you’ve been there before and you know what it takes.”
Eastern Michigan’s 6-2 lead quickly evaporated and after the first official timeout, with the score tied at six, Michigan got back-to-back layups from junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan. Hardaway, sophomore point guard Trey Burke and freshman guard Nik Stauskas each contributed 3-pointers to the 20-point run.
Stauskas, who air balled his first 3-point attempt after a sluggish 2-for-7 night from deep in Brooklyn on Saturday, proved that he still has his shooting touch. Stauskas connected on his next four 3-pointers in a 16-point effort.
Burke continued his impressive play. The sophomore scored a game-high 11 points in the first half. He didn’t score in the second half, but finished with eight assists. More impressively, though, he turned the ball over just once — continuing to play nearly turnover-free ball. Since Nov. 23, he’s had three games without committing a turnover, averaging just one turnover and more than 18 points over the seven-game stretch.
“That’s really big,” Beilein said. “He wants to win at everything in life and he wants to be the best he can, so he understands that’s a good number to have if you want to be a winner as a point guard.”
Added Hardaway: “Trey doesn’t need to be a prolific scorer. He doesn’t harp on that. … He just does a great job facilitating. We don’t need him to score all the points.”
Hardaway led all scorers with 17 points, punctuated by a thunderous one-handed slam with under four minutes left. It wasn’t the junior’s most efficient game — he shot just 5-for-14 — but his well-rounded effort included seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
Four of the Wolverines’ five starters finished in double digits, but Michigan (12-0) also got a spark from its bench. Freshman forward Mitch McGary recorded his first career double-double in just his second double-digit rebounding game, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“Things happen when Mitch gets the ball,” Beilein said. “Today, in the second half, there were a lot of good things happening when he was around the ball.
“People say (rebounding) is 25 percent ability and 75 percent effort, and he has that effort out there. … It’s a work in progress, but he’s got that attitude, that body to be very successful if he keeps going in this direction.”
Freshman guard Caris LeVert scored a career-high eight points, beating his previous high of three on the first of his two 3-pointers.
Beilein said that when he arrived at the Player Development Thursday morning at around 6 a.m., LeVert and Burke were playing one-on-one.
“That’s who that young man is,” Beilein said of LeVert. “We have a lot of guys (who work hard), but I compare him to — with his time in that gym, he’s like (former Michigan guard Zack) Novak.”
Senior guard Matt Vogrich was the only active Wolverine to finish without a point.
The Eagles (6-4) were led by guard Daylen Thompson’s 13 points. Center Da’Shonte Riley, the former highly touted five-star recruit out of Detroit Country Day who played his freshman season at Syracuse, was held scoreless.
Michigan now his nine days before its next game, which allows the players to go home for four days — the longest holiday break Beilein has ever been able to grant a team — before a Dec. 29 matchup against another in-state opponent, Central Michigan.