Jordan Morgan gives Michigan opponents one more problem, when they’re already trying to figure out how to defend Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Wolverines’ talented freshmen.
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Morgan scored a season-high 12 points and matched a season high with 10 rebounds to help No. 3 Michigan beat Arkansas 80-67 Saturday.
The Wolverines (9-0) are off to their best start since they won the first 11 games of the 1988-89 season, when they went on to win the program’s only national title.
”It doesn’t mean anything,” coach John Beilein insisted.
It will mean a lot, Beilein acknowledged, if Morgan’s performance provided a glimpse of what the junior forward will do more often this season.
Morgan has been prone to playing passively throughout his career, but he grabbed six of the team’s 18 offensive rebounds because he played with a lot of energy.
”When he’s got that, we’re a much better team,” Beilein said.
Michigan’s entire starting lineup scored in double figures.
Glenn Robinson III scored 17, Burke had 16 points and seven assists, Hardaway scored 14 and Stauskas added 12.
Morgan disagreed with the notion that he’s a forgotten player on team that has generated excitement by other players, saying everyone is simply trying to play their role to help the team win, while averaging 6.9 points and 5.4 rebounds this season.
”Finish and get as many rebounds as I can, that’s pretty much my job description,” he said. ”And, play good defense.”
Michigan, which led Arkansas by as much as 13 in the first half, was ahead by only one point with 56-55 with 8:58 left.
The Wolverines went on a 10-2 run and coasted to the win, Beilein’s 100th in six seasons at the school. Michigan was 10-22 in Beilein’s first year and won just 15 games in his third year.
”I hope the next 100 at Michigan are easier than the first 100,” he said.
Marshawn Powell had 18 points for the Razorbacks (4-4) and their leading scorer, BJ Young, scored all nine of his points in the first half before being held scoreless in 13 minutes of the second half when he appeared to have a leg injury.
”He might have a bruise,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ”I don’t think it was just a cramp, he got popped.”
Arkansas reserve Kikko Haydar had a career-high 13 points, Hunter Mickelson scored 10 and Rickey Scott had 10 points off the bench.
Beilein said he didn’t know who Haydar was and that made sense because the junior guard had scored six points in six games this season and 31 in his career.
”I thought he walked in off the street,” Beilein said. ”What a great story, a walk-on, playing on CBS TV, and he accounted for 13 of their points. He was a bit of a difference-maker for a while.”
The Razorbacks were coming off an 81-78 win over Oklahoma, their only win in a five-game stretch against teams from major conferences.
”I’ve never played a stretch of games like this since I’ve been in college,” said Powell, a junior forward. ”It’s been tough, and we haven’t won any of these (games against ranked teams), but it definitely going to help us in the SEC.
”We were in these games, and we’ve learned how much one possession can mean in a game, especially in someone else’s house.”
Michigan might not get tested until the Big Ten season starts, but it does have a trip to New York next Saturday to play West Virginia, the school at which Beilein coached before being hired to replaced fired coach Tommy Amaker.
So far, the Wolverines have shown they can run on offense or play a methodical, half-court game.
”The idea is, we want a game that travels and a game that is versatile,” Morgan said. ”We’re going to play a lot of good teams, especially in the Big Ten.”
And to win in the highly competitive conference loaded with ranked teams, including No. 1 Indiana, the Wolverines are going to need Morgan to play as he did against Arkansas and not like he has for much of his career.
”Jordan worked his tail off all summer, and you can see the results,” Burke said. ”He scored some points, but in every game, he’s doing little things that make us a much better team. He keeps possessions alive, he grabs defensive rebounds, he shuts people down in the post and he gives us a big body down low.
”A lot of that might not show up in the box score, but we know he’s doing it.”