"They're just a better basketball team."
Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins was frank in the aftermath of his team's 73-41 loss to Michigan. Of course, he wasn't exactly going out on a limb; that reality was apparent to anyone who saw the game, at least after the first eight minutes.
At the 12:01 mark of the first half, Michigan held a slim 12-11 lead. It was an ugly opening stretch marred by nine total turnovers, six of those by WMU. Neither squad was in an offensive rhythm.
Then the Wolverines hit their stride, ripping off seven straight points—capped by a Trey Burke three-pointer—and the Broncos couldn't keep up. At halftime, the margin was 14 points, and Michigan's lead would grow as large as 37 before John Beilein called off the dogs late.
Leading the way was Burke, providing a steady hand at the point once again while his teammates found their stroke—he finished with a game-high 20 points (8-11 FGs) and dished out seven assists with zero turnovers. Following his lead, Michigan turned the ball over just seven times after the early going. On the other end, Western couldn't hold onto the ball, coughing it up 18 times total—their turnover rate hung around 40% for most of the game before settling at a still-ugly 29.3%.
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
Michigan's impressive shooting figure was bolstered by strong finishing inside from Jordan Morgan (8 pts., 4-6 FGs, 8 rebs.) and Mitch McGary (10 pts., 5-5 FGs, 3 rebs.), each the benificiary of slick passing by Burke, Nik Stauskas (4 ast.), and Tim Hardaway Jr. (3 ast.). McGary's passing, unfortunately, wasn't quite as nifty—the big freshman had four turnovers, including a baseball-style kickout that nearly beheaded a spectator in the second row.
Nik Stauskas rather shockingly missed two of his four free throws, as well as his first attempt from the field. Despite Western Michigan's efforts to deny him the ball—they refused to help off Stauskas—he drilled his other three long-distance attempts, getting off the schneid with a contested look as the shot clock expired. He finished with 11 points.
Hardaway (9 pts.) and Glenn Robinson III (7) each shot just 3-10 from the field. They found other ways to help the team, however—Hardaway with his passing, Robinson with five boards, including two on the offensive end.
Beilein continues to tinker with the lineup; tonight's tweak featured freshman Caris LeVert, who came off his redshirt against Bradley over the weekend, subbing in for Hardaway just 2 1/2 minutes into the contest. He'd play 13 minutes total, tallying his first collegiate points on a three from the top of the key late in the first half.
Matt Vogrich, on the other hand, played just three minutes. Beilein said postgame that LeVert has earned his spot in the rotation and the team was in favor of him playing. We'll see how the minutes shake out going forward; for now, it appears that LeVert has supplanted Vogrich.
LeVert led the team's chorus of "The Victors" after the game, though his vocal performance was only the second-most notable on the evening—during the first half, the Crisler Center jumbotron showed a video featuring McGary belting out a Justin Bieber song, to the delight of the crowd.
Asked about his affinity for Bieber after the game, McGary quipped, "he's a talented kid, and I like talented people." Luckily for McGary, he happens to be surrounded by them.