The Wolverine

December 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 41 of 91

J ohn Beilein's Michigan squads have always competed hard in the early-season tournaments they've entered. They just hadn't won one — until now. The No. 3-ranked Wolverines' BY JOHN BORTON other games in the season. Michi- gan basketball fans can't wait to see them unfold, given the Wolverines' 6-0 start, No. 3 national ranking and striking early results with a blend of veterans and rookies. "It was one of our first goals, to win the NIT championship," noted sophomore guard Trey Burke, who along with the tournament MVP, ju- nior swingman Tim Hardaway Jr., earned all-tournament honors. "We did a great job of taking it one game at a time. The coaching staff did a great job of preparing us each game. We won a hard-fought game against Pitt and a hard-fought game today. We've just got to keep getting better at the defensive end. To ac- complish it is great, but we still have work to do." The Wolverines crushed the warm- 71-57 smackdown of Kansas State in Madison Square Garden Nov. 23 marked another step for a program appearing well-armed to take many more this season. Beilein's talent- laden squad shook off a gritty Pitts- burgh team, 67-62, in reaching the NIT Season Tip-Off final at the iconic New York basketball palace, then left no doubt in the championship game. "When you go to the University of Michigan, when you work at Michi- gan, you talk about championships a lot," Beilein assured. "Those who stay will be champions. So whenever we have a chance to do something like this, we embrace it and go for it, like there are no other games in the season." There are, of course, plenty of sas State and Pittsburgh shake out in the college basketball world this season, but there's little question the Wolverines are serving notice they'll be a handful — in the Big Ten and beyond. It remains to be seen where Kan- in the title game, showing off the sort of forceful, self-assured effort he's given in the early portion of the sea- son. He led all scorers with 23 points, while snagging seven rebounds, making a steal and blocking a shot. Hardaway sealed the MVP honors CRUSHING KSU court actually took a bit of a back seat in the title game. Even then, Burke tallied 10 points and four assists. But the Wolverines' depth was on dis- play when the sophomore sat out six minutes of the first half, with rookie Spike Albrecht stepping in to provide a steady hand at point guard. In addition to the comfort zone NIT Season Tip-Off Title Reveals Michigan Crew Ready For More SERVING NOTICE lowed him to lead the Michigan tran- sition game at times, a significant step up for the third-year Wolverine. Beilein noted that doesn't happen by accident. "This is what he works for," Beilein His work on ball handling has al- said. "He works hard at not just be- ing a shooter — having an in-be- tween game, being a rebounder. How about the rebounds he's getting right now? He's getting traffic rebounds from a lot of people. He's taking the ball on the break. "He would give it up before, and up competition for the tournament at Crisler Center, as expected. They rampaged past IUPUI, 91-54, and then battered Cleveland State, 77-47, to reserve their seats in New York. Upon arrival, they finished the job. we probably told him to, because he didn't have that confidence. He has it now. When you work really hard, it just breeds confidence. He does that." Beilein insisted the son of former ing dominance is a little like Miss America showing off her cooking skills. It's a bonus, one that former Illinois head coach Bruce Weber, now at KSU, couldn't help but notice. "Rebounding has been our A Beilein team featuring rebound- strength, and they just punked us on the boards," Weber said. "Tim Hard- away is a different player this year than what I saw in the past, and he hurt us." Hardaway's 10-of-15 shooting ef- NBA standout Tim Hardaway has earned everything he's gotten, and those rewards continue to increase. "Obviously, he's got great DNA," Last year, the Wolverines knocked off No. 8 Memphis and UCLA in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, but dropped an 82-75 showdown against No. 6 Duke. The year before, losses to No. 9 Syracuse and UTEP met them after the warm-up rounds of the 2010 Legends Classic. 42 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2012 fort led a crew of Michigan marks- men that connected on 51.8 percent in the title game. KSU, meanwhile, shot just 28.6 percent in the first half and 36.7 percent for the game, despite the Wolverines featuring a number of trainees on the defensive end of the floor. The Wolverines' shooting effort Beilein said. "But DNA alone doesn't get you there. He's got a great worth ethic, just like his father did." Hardaway did take a knee to the back of the head against KSU under the boards, staying down for sev- eral minutes before being helped off. Early reports had him cleared of any serious injury. The other half of Michigan's back- in ball-handling depth, Michigan's newfound muscle stood on display in the title game. The Wolverines out- rebounded Kansas State, 42-30, led by an even dozen from true freshman Glenn Robinson III, who became a starter from game one. didn't signify an aberration. Through the first six games of the season, they connected on 52.9 percent of their attempts from the field and 42.7 per- cent from three-point range. At least in the early going, shooting has also emerged as a strength. Sophomore point guard Trey Burke dished out 45 assists compared to just 17 turn- overs, while also averaging 16.7 points per game, in U-M's 6-0 start to the season. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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