Sunday, December 16, 2012
Michigan takes another bite of the Big Apple
By Kieran Darcy
Michigan is 3-0 in New York City and 11-0 on the season.
Three weeks after winning the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden, the No. 3 Wolverines defeated West Virginia 81-66 at the Barclays Center on Saturday.
It was yet another double-digit victory for a team that is beating opponents by an average of 20.6 points per game.
For Michigan coach John Beilein, it was a win against his former squad. Beilein coached the Mountaineers from 2002 to 2007, leading them to an Elite Eight and a Sweet Sixteen during his tenure.
"Our family had so many great memories of West Virginia," Beilein said. "We have a lot of respect for their program, and that’s what makes [the win] feel really good, because we respect their team, their coach, their university."
The Wolverines jumped out to a 13-2 lead less than three minutes in and never trailed in the game. West Virginia made a couple of runs, cutting the deficit to five late in the first half and seven late in the second half, but got no closer.
The Mountaineers, which were coming off a loss to Duquesne earlier in the week, are 4-5. Coach Bob Huggins called his team out after the game.
"I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it," Huggins said. "I’m sick of watching guys stand around. I’m sick of watching guys not compete. I’m sick of guys missing shot after shot after shot but never coming early, never staying late, don’t think about coming in on an off-day and then telling me they care? I haven’t had guys like that before. I want some guys that care."
Freshman guard Terry Henderson had a career-high 23 points for West Virginia, but starters Deniz Kilicli and Jabarie Hinds rode the pine, playing just nine and eight minutes, respectively. Huggins benched junior center Aaric Murray entirely, not even bringing him to New York.
"I’ve left guys home way, way, way better than Aaric Murray," Huggins said. "I love this university. We’re gonna do right. We’re gonna represent it the right way. We’re gonna do the right things. And if they don’t do the right things, then they’re not gonna play."
Beilein, on the other hand, is delighted with his team -- particularly star guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored 27 and 25 points, respectively.
The only blemish on the night for the maize and blue? Reserve forward Jon Horford suffered a dislocated kneecap in the first half and is out indefinitely.
Burke, the 6-foot sophomore point guard, played an outstanding all-around game. In addition to shooting 12-for-16 from the field, he had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and zero turnovers.
"Just reading what the defense, whatever they gave me out there," Burke said. "[I] think they were pushing up on the screens when I would come off and kind of allowing me to get deep in the paint. The layups were there, and sometimes they would step over and the kickouts were there."
"He’s really, really good," Huggins said. "He makes the right pass. I mean, he goes 12-for-16 -- which I know that’s good -- but what’s really good about him is he passes the ball to the right guy."
Burke thought seriously about jumping to the NBA after last season, when he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
He looked like an NBA player Saturday night, playing in an NBA arena.
And Michigan looks like a team capable of doing big things in March. The Wolverines are off to their best start since the 1988-89 season, when they also went 11-0.
That team, led by Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson, won a national championship.
These Wolverines entered the game shooting 50.7 percent from the field, ranking them seventh in the country. They shot 56 percent (28-for-50) against West Virginia.
The backcourt of Burke and Hardaway Jr. is arguably as good as any pair of guards in the country. Their coach sees something in them that Huggins doesn’t see in his own players.
"They both have passion," Beilein said. "Those two work in the offseason, before practice, after practice."