New No. 1 Michigan overpowers Northwestern

The SportsXchange

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Taking the floor as the nation's No. 1 team for the first time since 1992 proved no burden for Michigan, as the Wolverines breezed to a 68-46 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday.

Michigan, which moved into the top spot in the Associated Press rankings on Monday, continued the best start in program history by getting off to a fast start against the Wildcats at Crisler Center. The Wolverines (20-1, 7-1 Big Ten) hit 10 of their first 11 shots and never looked back.

Northwestern (12-10, 3-6) dropped its second consecutive league game, struggling mightily to contain sophomore point guard Trey Burke, who led the Wolverines with 18 points and eight assists. Burke committed only one turnover, on an offensive foul. As a team, Michigan turned the ball over just twice.

"You can try to concoct defenses to stop him, but he's not greedy," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said of Burke. "He can find a lot of those guys. With his passing ability, he helps a lot of those younger guys."

Added Burke, when told of Michigan's low turnover number: "I think that's just a matter of being unselfish and making the right play. We all are so unselfish, and guys want to make the right play for the best of the team. And I think that's what we did."

Joining Burke in double-figure scoring were freshmen Glenn Robinson III (13 points) and Nik Stauskas (11 points), along with redshirt sophomore forward Jon Horford, who scored 10 points in his second career start.

Stauskas, who is best known as a 3-point shooter, contributed one of the game's most electric plays when he drove the baseline for a two-handed dunk in the second half. Horford, who started in place of the injured Jordan Morgan, had one of the best games of his college career.

"It feels really good any time you get to contribute and help your team get wins," Horford said. "Playing with these guys is a ton of fun. You got guys who can hit you (with passes), people are gonna knock down shots, and they're your friends. It's an awesome experience."

Freshman Mitch McGary, who split time with Horford in the post, grabbed a team-leading 11 rebounds and also scored six points.

The leading scorers for the Wildcats, who shot 37.3 percent for the game, were 7-foot freshman center Alex Olah (10 points), forward Jared Swopshire (eight) and guard Reggie Hearn (seven).

Michigan shot 51 percent for game, compared to 37.3 percent for the Wildcats.

Michigan played a nearly flawless first half, streaking to a 36-21 advantage. The Wolverines did not turn the ball in the half, and they did not pick up their first personal foul until McGary was caught reaching in while attempting a steal with less than a minute remaining before the break.

Burke led the Wolverines with 10 points and six assists in the first half, while Stauskas and Robinson made their offensive impact from the outside and inside, respectively. Stauskas was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc before halftime, and Robinson went 4-of-4 from the floor, including two dunks.

Three Northwestern players -- Hearn, Dave Sobolewski and Alex Marcotullio -- paced the team with five first-half points apiece. The Wildcats connected on just three of their 11 3-point attempts before halftime, and they finished 4-for-19 from long range.

"That's a very good basketball team," Carmody said of Michigan after the game. "They pass the ball really, really well. They can make you look pretty bad sometimes."

NOTES: After consecutive road losses, Northwestern will return home Saturday to play Purdue, while Michigan will enter the most challenging stretch of its schedule. Following a trip to third-ranked Indiana on Saturday, Michigan plays host to No. 11 Ohio State, then travels to Wisconsin and plays at No. 13 Michigan State. ... Northwestern did not have any fast break points in the game. ... The only Michigan regular to struggle offensively was guard Tim Hardaway Jr. who made three of 10 shots. Hardaway wound up with seven points, nine below his average. ... Northwestern committed two shot-clock violations in the first half.
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