Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III dunks against Northwestern on Wednesday. Robinson scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
ANN ARBOR — Glenn Robinson III and his freshmen teammates learned of Michigan’s newly minted status as the top basketball team in the country Monday while in a class called "The Cultures of Basketball."
Since then, their daily lives have changed. Classmates roared after the professor of the players’ twice-weekly 300-level humanities course on the history of roundball made the announcement, and the acclaim only continued.
"You have people always coming up and congratulating you," Robinson said. "Everybody’s crazy excited about the team on campus."
Yet Wednesday, Michigan proved the flattery has not blown up its heads.
In the Wolverines’ first game ranked No. 1 since 1992, they easily passed the test in a 68-46 victory against Northwestern at Crisler Arena.
In fact, with sophomore star Trey Burke’s game-high 18 points leading four UM players in double figures, the home team was sharp and selfless as ever as a near-perfect start gave way to another rout.
Michigan (20-1, 7-1 Big Ten) had 10 assists to no turnovers in the first half and gave the ball away only twice overall — a mark coach John Beilein figured a record in his coaching career.
Asked about the two turnovers, Burke appeared taken aback.
"Who, we?" said Burke, who also had eight assists. "We only had two turnovers?"
Assured it was indeed true, the point guard thought about it for a moment.
"And one was on an offensive foul," he proudly declared.
It was that kind of night for Michigan, which escaped what appeared a classic trap game before Saturday’s showdown at third-ranked Indiana — the leader in the clubhouse for the most anticipated game of the college basketball season.
Beilein said he was impressed with his team’s focus.
"As a coach, even myself, I still try to answer every text, every email I can, and there's lots of them coming in," Beilein said. "Is that taking me away from Northwestern prep? I didn't let it. ... When the season’s over, you can talk about this.
"We embrace it more than I probably give up. We embrace this moment of being No. 1, but we're not focused on like, ‘We made it.’ No, we've got a long way to go."
It didn’t look that way early. Befitting their blue warm-up shirts blaring "WE ON" in giant maize letters, the Wolverines could not miss early. They made 10 of 11 shots as Burke and Co. toyed with the Wildcats (12-10, 3-6) in opening a 23-11 lead.
Burke opened the game with a 3-pointer and ended the early run with consecutive 18-footers. In between, his drives set up teammates while his charity rubbed off on others — the first 10 minutes a clinic in ball movement.
One play, Burke drove and kicked to a teammate in the corner, who swung the ball to Tim Hardaway, Jr., at the top of the key, who then found freshman Nik Stauskas on the wing for one of his three 3-pointers. Another play, Hardaway fired a long outlet pass to to Burke, who then tossed up an alley-oop for Robinson.
In all, Michigan shot 51 percent (25 of 49) from the field. Robinson added 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting while Stauskas had 11 points.
Forward Jon Horford had 10 points and seven rebounds in place of injured starter Jordan Morgan, who watched in a boot with a sprained ankle suffered Sunday at Illinois. Beilein was uncertain about Morgan’s status for Saturday.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.