|#3 Michigan (8-0)||35||38||73|
|Western Michigan (6-2)||21||20||41|
Entering Tuesday night’s match-up against in-state foe Western Michigan, Michigan was getting by teams with their powerful offense, shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from downtown. In the 32-point romp over Western, however, defense was all the Wolverines needed to cruise to their first 8-0 start since the 1996-97 season.
The Broncos certainly weren’t setting the nets on fire before traveling to Ann Arbor, making only 43.9 percent of their shots and 37 percent of their long-range looks, but it was a new low for Steve Hawkins’s squad Tuesday. Michigan’s length and athleticism seemed to give Western problems all night long, challenging every shot and forcing Western to pass the ball around the perimeter to no avail for extended periods of time on a number of possessions. The Broncos ended the night making a dreadful 13 of 45 attempts from the field (28.9%) and only two of their 17 shots from behind the arc (11.8%).
Michigan was also not at its best, but the Wolverines still managed to make half of their 58 attempts from the field and eight of their 21 three-pointers. Trey Burke carried the offense with 20 points, seven assists, and zero turnovers in another All-American type performance while Nik Stauskas and fellow freshman Mitch McGary chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
There seemed to be a lid on both baskets for the better part of the first half, as the teams struggled to get going, but Trey eventually led the way with 10 first half points. The two teams found themselves tied at nine points just over seven minutes into the first half when Tim Hardaway, Jr. threw down a vicious one-handed slam to get his team going. Michigan never looked back from there, taking a 14-point lead into the break and extending that cushion early in the second stanza.
As mentioned in our short preview of this game, the key to stopping Western Michigan is stopping their inside-outside forward duo of Nate Hutcheson and Darius Paul. What may have been the real difference, however, was Bronco center Shayne Whittington’s foul trouble throughout. The big man has been a beast on the boards so far and asserted himself in the first half, grabbing three offensive and three defensive boards, but was limited to just nine minutes because of a couple early fouls.
Four Broncos in all picked up two fouls in the first half, including Paul as well, and by the time halftime came, it was already too late for Western to fight back. Paul did end up leading the team with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, but it took him 12 shots to get there and no one else really stood out. Hutcheson, Western’s leading scorer coming in, managed only six points on 3-of-11 shooting, including 0-4 from downtown, to go with his three turnovers.
The name of the game in the first half was Western Michigan’s sloppiness with the basketball. The Broncos coughed it up an astounding 13 times against the Wolverines’ strong defense while Michigan recorded five turnovers, leading to a 17-2 points-off-turnovers advantage for Michigan.
All in all, neither team looked particularly good, but it was apparent that Michigan knows how to win, and win big, even when shots aren’t falling like they normally do. Despite Hardaway, Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, two of Michigan’s biggest scorers and best players to date, having rough nights with nine and seven points, respectively, the Wolverines’ balance gave them everything they needed, as six guys scored at least seven points and eight played double digit minutes.
Prior to the win, this game seemed like it could be a potential trap for Michigan, a chance to get lazy after a solid four-game stretch, but Beilein just would not let it happen. The Wolverines put forth their best defensive effort of the season so far to ensure that nothing out of the ordinary would happen.
As Michigan continues to roll, the chances of an undefeated non-conference season become more and more apparent. Arkansas will make the trip to Ann Arbor for a Saturday afternoon match-up in which the Wolverines will be looking for revenge and the Maize and Blue will travel to New York in mid-December to take on a struggling West Virginia squad, but it’s tough to see a possible loss anywhere else.
Obviously the Big Ten is the best league in the country this year, or is at least looking like it so far, and Michigan is a big reason that is the case. The season is still young, but this seems to have all the makings of a special year in Ann Arbor. With conference play starting just after the holidays, things should become much clearer very soon.
|Final Game Stats|
|01||Glenn Robinson III*||3-10||0-3||1-1||2||3||5||2||7||2||1||0||1||28|
|10||Tim Hardaway Jr*||3-10||1-3||2-3||0||3||3||2||9||3||2||0||0||31|