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January 6, 2013

Tide continues to rise for Michigan basketball

Their talent, skill and depth might be as impressive as any team in the country, and Michigan's basketball team showed it again in a 95-67 blowout of Iowa that improved the No. 2 Wolverines to 15-0 overall, 2-0 in the Big Ten.

About the only thing not on display was ego.

The Hawkeyes hung tough for just over 15 minutes, and it appeared Michigan might be in for its first dogfight in several weeks.

"We needed that," head coach John Beilein said. "We've been in a lot of games where about 15 minutes into the first half we might have had a double digit lead. We didn't have that today.

"But we closed the first half well, came out in the second half and really played good from the get-go. I love the focus, energy and determination we needed to have."

And, undoubtedly, the selflessness with which they play. Beilein was especially impressed with one late pass by sophomore Trey Burke, one of his 12 assists. Instead of trying to finish, he found a teammate with the hot hand and gave the ball up.

There have been great point guards at Michigan, Beilein said, and he's coached several of his own over his 30-plus year career. Few, though, have the ability to score and pass - and know when to do which - as well as Burke.

"My favorite moment was the last one to Stauskas [for a three]," Beilein said. "He got in the lane and knew where he was the whole time, threw a bullet pass [chest high] for Nik - the young man, you can see, really is special."

He's also more about winning than getting his, a key quality in a quarterback. Junior Tim Hardaway Jr. (19 points, five assists, five rebounds) has also bought in, playing the most well rounded basketball of his career, while the rest have followed their lead.

Redshirt junior Jordan Morgan coaches Mitch McGary every day in practice, and the results continue to show. The one-time five-star prospect plays more like a two-star with something to prove on every possession, with a controlled but reckless abandon that's inherent, not coached. Beilein compared him to another Chesterton native in former captain Zack Novak, and it appears McGary is intent on living up to his mentor's legacy.

Three years ago, redshirt freshman big man Max Bielfeldt might have played significant minutes for the program. He's now waiting his turn, but giving everything he can in practice to earn minutes. He played eight Sunday, and he made the most of them.

"It's something we preach, something we recruit and preach about daily," Beilein said. "You have to have the guys that will buy into that, and that is not human nature all the time. We have to work at it yet.

"I'm sure we are going to have moments where guys think about 'me' instead of 'we.' It's tough when you have a team that displayed the talent they did here today."

Freshman Glenn Robinson III, for example, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Stauskas, who showed off a few ridiculous moves with the ball in his hands in addition to going 3-for-6 from long range again (13 points).

McGary finished with 11 rebounds, freshman Caris LeVert nine in a game in which the Wolverines spread the wealth once again.

"One of Coach [Jeff] Meyer's favorite quotes is, 'a rising tide raises all boats,'" Beilein said. "We're telling everybody, no matter where you are on this team, the more you give, the more you're going to get."

There appears to be more to come, the result through 15 games speaking for itself.

Notebook

  • Beilein was impressed with Iowa, which came out strong in taking a 7-0 lead.

    "The first 10 or 15 minutes we saw two really strong teams really battling trying to find themselves," he said. "Once you get to the speed and physical play of the Big Ten, it was a very competitive game.

    "Defensively and offensively, we had to realize where we were. I really like their team. They've just had an unfortunate start having to play Indiana and Michigan on a night like this back to back to start your games. I don't know too many teams that wouldn't be 0-2 in that situation. I like their team. I think it's going to be very good one down the line, but I like our team a lot, too. We did some really good things out there."

    The Hawkeyes ran their offense well in the early going before Michigan adjusted.

    "Basically, they run a blockers and movers offense as quick as I've ever seen," Beilein said. "We went from a hybrid like Northwestern to blockers and movers, the two screeners, a lot of curling. For our team or any team, with the speed they run it, it's really tough to guard."

    They settled down, however, and got the transition game going. U-M scored 16 points on the break to none for Iowa.

    "That was big," Beilein said.

  • Robinson III is the nation's leader in assisted baskets, but Beilein continues to cringe at the suggestion that the coaches don't run any plays for him.

    "Stuff is being run for him, silent stuff to get him in different areas," he said. "Putting them in a ball screen so they can go to work, maybe Trey and a few other guys we do that with. He's getting to that position, but we are running things for him to get him open and in space behind the scenes, as you can see.

    "What stands out is not his vertical jump, but the quickness he can get to the rim for rebounds. We have a four-second drill. I can't wait to see the video of the last play. I thought there was no way we were going to get another shot. I got it with 3.6, all of sudden he's laying it in. You've got to have a motor to do that."

  • McGary, meanwhile, continues to hit the "singles" Beilein is looking for, though his blocked shot on a dunk that started a break was at least a triple.

    "It's every day," he said. "That's not what we watch on ESPN. We don't watch guys going out hitting singles, not in baseball, football, or basketball. That's what today's generation looking for is highlights.

    "One of the biggest things, though, is we don't win with just highlights. Just make a lot of simple plays. That's what we've seen while we continue to build a program.

    "Some of the heartbreak moments or really tight games we might have won, you would see Zack Novak doing everything he could to get a rebound he probably had no business getting. As a result, we probably didn't get 50 percent of those. Mitch is in a position that he gets those. Zack might have missed it, it went off his fingers, all of a sudden we're guarding them again and they score."

  • The upgraded athleticism has made a difference across the board, Beilein said.

    "We always thought as we were trying to develop a coaching philosophy with my staff, and I have a great staff, is we wouldn't change if we got more athletic," he added. "Some of these principles would still work if we had better speed.

    "The thing with Glenn, Mitch - athleticism isn't north and south, it is east and west. Those guys can run. That really helps. We get clean rebounds, and we've always run wherever I've been, but we run a little faster now, jump a little higher."

    And they all play well with the upperclassmen.

    "This is a good team that plays together, good teammates who practice hard," Beilein said. "It's a concern, they practice so hard we have to make sure we don't over-practice. They don't go out there and take drills off."

  • Redshirt sophomore big man Jon Horford wanted to dress and did, and he's getting closer to returning from a knee injury.

    "We'll push him a little harder this week," Beilein said. "He hasn't gone full court yet, but all out half court."







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