Commentary

Burke battles through Hoosiers

Freshman point guard gets stern test from IU's different looks, variou defenders

Updated: February 1, 2012, 11:07 PM ET
By Chantel Jennings | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- For the first five minutes of No. 22 Michigan's 68-56 win over No. 20 Indiana, Wolverines freshman point guard Trey Burke was impossible to stop. He hit 3-pointers, went coast-to-coast and spun through Hoosiers as though he were playing against children on the playground.

Then, he had arguably his least productive 30-minute stretch of the season.

[+] EnlargeTrey Burke
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireTrey Burke struggled in stretches against IU, but hit several key free throws late.
He lit up once again in the final five minutes, propelling the Wolverines to the win. In those two five-minute stretches Burke scored a team-high 18 points and was 5-of-5 from the floor. In the middle 30, he went 0-for-4 and didn't reach the free-throw line once.

"They threw different looks at me," Burke said. "I knew that down the stretch I was just going to be able to get in the paint, create for others and they did a good job. ... I knew that my teammates were going to step up."

Indiana started the game with junior guard Jordan Hulls matched up against Burke, but Burke showed his speed and quickness by taking Hulls to the rim. Then Indiana coach Tom Crean moved junior forward Christian Watford out to guard Burke. Watford, who has a 10-inch, 45-pound advantage over the freshman, might have been a step slower, but he was long enough to keep Burke in front of him.

"This young man has seen everything, whether they double, whether they go under the screen, whether they hedge and recover," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "He's trying to read it all the time. And they're locking the rail. They're putting a big guy on him. They're putting a small guy on him."

The Wolverines have shown they need Burke to produce in order to win. And while Burke helped Michigan out to a 13-point lead, when he went cold Indiana clawed back to pull within two.

Indiana's different looks proved effective, and while it was enough to slow Burke, it wasn't enough to stop the Wolverines.

"He's learning all the time, and he gets confused out there," Beilein said of Burke. "But we work with him every day watching film. ... As things go on, I think he'll learn, 'OK, I've seen that particular thing before,' and the light bulb will go on. This is the best way. You just don't see this in high school."

But the Hoosiers, even with their non-high school looks, could only silence Burke for so long. He too clawed back and forced his way in to the paint, drawing fouls and putting himself at the free-throw line, where he finished 6-for-8.

It was one of the toughest matchups Burke has seen this season. And while most look at him as a seasoned veteran, he's still just 23 games out of high school. The game plans for each team will be different, but Beilein said his attitude is the same for each.

"In those situations we tell him to play ball," Beilein said. "We're going to set a screen and obviously they're going to take away his outside shot, so you have to drive the ball a little bit. ... We're just trying to get him to create action so the residual action gives us good looks."

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @chanteljennings.

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