Trey Burke celebrated his 20th birthday in style on Monday night, scoring 22 points and dishing out nine assists in a convincing Michigan win. Tuesday night, there would be no birthday hangover.
Burke opened the game with a break-your-ankles crossover for a layup and for the first time in this early season, the Wolverines took control from the get-go, jumping out to a quick 8-0 lead before the first official timeout.
Cleveland State narrowed its deficit to 10-7 at the 14:27 mark, but Michigan responded with authority, clamping down on the defensive end and scoring 32 of the half’s final 39 points to take a commanding 42-14 halftime lead. The teams traded baskets for much of the second half, allowing the Wolverines to win convincingly, 77-47.
“Our defense was terrific,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “It fueled our offense, which was mostly fast break and really allowed us to just get out in front so much that the lead was going to be hard to overcome, no matter what Cleveland State did.”
With the win, Michigan advances to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinal, which kicks off next Wednesday in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. After cruising through the opening two rounds, the Wolverines are the favorite entering the Big Apple.
“That was a goal,” Beilein said. “Many of the kids have not been to New York, they’ve not been to the Garden, and we wanted them to get there … I’m excited that this team can go to one of the most storied places to play basketball.”
Burke and junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. led a balanced first-half Michigan offense that saw eight different players score. Hardaway scored 10 points in the opening stanza and finished with game-high 17 points. Burke paced the offense with 12 points and seven assists.
The Wolverines’ impressive first-half defensive lockdown can be largely attributed to their domination on the defensive glass. Michigan rebounded 20 of the Vikings’ 21 first-half misses and allowed no second-chance points.
The freshmen continued their steady play for the Wolverines. Guard Nik Stauskas flashed the impressive shooting that brought him to Michigan, setting a career-high with 15 points thanks to 3-of-4 3-point shooting, while also adding six rebounds — three-times more than his season total entering the game.
Stauskas called his 2-for-5 3-point shooting in an exhibition win over Saginaw Valley State last week “a bad night.”
So how about his 3-for-4 performance?
“I’ll take that,” he said, laughing. “I know eventually I’m going to get my looks. Coach (Beilein) gave me the confidence to just keep shooting (and) knock them down when I can, and my teammates are going to find me.”
Forward Glenn Robinson III had a slow shooting night, connecting on just 2-of-7 from the field, but he added seven rebounds. Forward Mitch McGary made all three of his field goals for six points and gathered a game-high nine rebounds.
Anton Grady was the only Viking to score more than six points. The forward scored 15 points, but was held to just three rebounds, as Michigan commanded the glass, outrebounding Cleveland State 45-28.
Ten Wolverines scored, as the bench chipped in with 29 points.
“You just see those guys how much work they put in in the offseason — just as much as you did,” Hardaway said. “You see them going out there and playing their hardest and it’s great because they got that opportunity to come here and play. Hats off to them. They deserve it.”