Thursday, January 3, 2013

Michigan rolls past Northwestern in conference opener

Quick Recap: The Wolverines opened conference play with a 94-66 rout of the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston. Michigan controlled the game from start to finish, jumping out to a 20-4 lead early and coasting to their 14th straight win to begin the season. Northwestern could not sustain any momentum without Drew Crawford and Reggie Hearn, their top two scorers, falling to 9-5 on the season.

Player of the Game: Trey Burke once again led the Wolverines with 23 points, along with 5 assists. He was the catalyst on Michigan’s 20-4 run to open up the game, shooting 5 of 6 for 13 points during that stretch.

X-Factor: Tim Hardaway Jr. showed no ill effects after sitting out the previous game with an ankle injury. Hardaway scored 21 points on 8 shots including 4 of 5 from beyond the three-point arc. His aggressiveness in transition and quick and confident trigger on his three-point attempts proved that his injury would not be of any concern moving forward, a major relief for many Michigan fans.

Positives: Jordan Morgan looked great finishing in the post in his workmanlike 12-point, 13-rebound performance. His finesse moves appeared sharp and his ball awareness was better than usual. In addition, he did not fumble the ball down low as much as he has in the past, something that will need to continue against tougher big men in the Big Ten. Glenn Robinson III also looked very poised and aggressive at the same time, finishing high in transition on a couple of alley-oops, while continuing his spectacular work off the ball and on defense. He finished with 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting.

Negatives: Nik Stauskas’s shot looked a little flat today, as he only shot 2 of 7 from deep. Despite his lackluster shooting, Stauskas still figured out a way to grind out 10 points on an off night. Expect him to shake this performance off and come back strong on Sunday.

Big Picture: Road wins are hard to come by in the Big Ten. Credit Coach Beilein with having his boys focused and ready to play against an inferior opponent. This was the 1st of a critical 3-game stretch of winnable Big Ten games that Michigan must sweep if they wish to contend for the title. The next matchup is Sunday against a pesky Iowa squad who came very close to upsetting Indiana in their conference opener.  

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