Michigan coach John Beilein sounded a bit surprised after his team’s latest blowout victory.
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The Wolverines beat Western Michigan by 32, but for much of the night they didn’t look all that sharp.
”If you looked at our faces in the first 10 minutes, we did not predict that outcome,” Beilein said. ”Our guys picked up the pressure a little bit, we did a few other things. Had to feed off our defense, because our offense, we missed some shots.”
Trey Burke had 20 points and seven assists, and No. 3 Michigan eventually pulled away for a 73-41 victory Tuesday night. Nik Stauskas scored 11 points for the Wolverines, and fellow freshman Mitch McGary added 10 on 5-of-5 shooting.
The Wolverines (8-0) had actually lost their previous two games against the Broncos, but that was more than a decade ago. Western Michigan (6-2) had won six straight coming into this game, including a victory over South Florida, but the Broncos wasted a chance to stay with the Wolverines, turning the ball over 13 times in the first half.
Freshman Darius Paul had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Western Michigan.
It is Michigan’s first 8-0 start since 1996-97. The Wolverines have four wins by at least 30 points this season.
Burke shot 8 of 11 from the field and didn’t commit a turnover in 31 minutes.
”He’s got an edge of toughness and he’s got a pace to him,” Beilein said. ”He understands when we need him to do more, and when we need him just to find all these good shooters we have around him, or pick-and-roll guys.”
The Wolverines struggled a bit early, but Western Michigan couldn’t take advantage. The Broncos committed several fouls at the offensive end in the first half, and Michigan led 25-15 after a layup by Glenn Robinson III. Jordan Morgan pushed the lead to a dozen with a layup of his own, and it was 35-21 at halftime.
”When we did execute, I felt like we could stay right there with these guys,” Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said. ”But you’re probably talking about doing that at a 30 percent, 40 percent rate against a team like this. Hopefully by the end of the year, we’re able to execute at an 80-to-90 percent rate.”
The Wolverines put the game away early in the second half. Stauskas made a 3-pointer to make it 45-28, and Robinson and Burke added old-fashioned three-point plays to make it a 23-point game.
It was 51-34 before Michigan padded the margin with a 22-2 run. A 3-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr. made it 66-36, and Burke connected moments later from beyond the arc.
For much of the night, Michigan threatened its worst shooting percentage of the season, but the Wolverines actually ended up right at 50 percent. It was the Broncos who really went through a nightmare at the offensive end, shooting 29 percent from the field, going 2 of 17 from 3-point range and finishing with 18 turnovers.
”We did a good job down the stretch,” Burke said. ”I think it’s just a matter of the intensity that we need on defense, from the get-go. We come out kind of timid on defense, and I think that’s an adjustment that we have to make in order for us to keep rolling.”
Michigan was coming off a bit of a test last weekend, when the Wolverines won 74-66 at Bradley. They’ll face another interesting nonconference matchup when Arkansas visits Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Paul was the only Western Michigan player in double figures, and he shot 3 of 12. The Broncos’ winning streak may have been a bit deceptive, with the last three victories coming by a combined 10 points.
”Some of our talent was able to take over a game when we didn’t have anything,” Hawkins said. ”Tonight, when things broke down or when execution wasn’t there, our talent was not going to take over the game. They just have better players.”