Men's basketball: No. 5 Wolverines clip No. 9 Gophers
MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points and Trey Burke had 18 points and nine assists to help No. 5 Michigan stave off No. 9 Minnesota 83-75 on Thursday night.
Hardaway hit four 3-pointers in the first half for the Wolverines (17-1, 4-1 Big Ten), who had the lead for the final 33 minutes of the game and finished with 13 steals to fuel their fast break. Nik Stauskas added 11 points.
Austin Hollins led the Gophers (15-3, 3-2) with 21 points and four steals, and Trevor Mbakwe had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Andre Hollins was drawn into early foul trouble, but he came alive after halftime to finish with 13 points and four assists.
The Gophers crept back in the game after falling behind by 19 points early in the second half but squandered some opportunities to really make the Wolverines worry. Joe Coleman missed three of four free throws in the final 4 minutes.
After Rodney Williams cut the margin to 77-70 with 2:40 remaining, the Gophers got the ball back but Williams had an open 3-pointer rim out and Andre Hollins had his putback attempt blocked underneath.
Burke stretched the lead to nine with two free throws with 43 seconds left, effectively sealing another signature victory for the Wolverines.
Michigan moved into a four-way tie for second place in the stacked Big Ten behind surprisingly unbeaten Wisconsin. Minnesota lost its second straight game after falling 88-81 at Indiana last Saturday. The Wolverines have beaten the Gophers in eight of their last nine meetings.
Michigan coach John Beilein and Minnesota coach Tubby Smith are both in their sixth seasons at these schools, trying to revive programs that have been conference powers in the past but lagged through the last decade before they arrived.
Michigan took the big step forward last season by sharing the Big Ten title but hasn’t reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament since 1994.
Minnesota hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1997, the year the Gophers went to the Final Four but had their records erased by an academic fraud scandal.
This was the first game at Williams Arena pitting two top 10 teams in The Associated Press poll since Michigan visited Minnesota in 1977, and the fans at “The Barn” raised the noise level to the occasion. In the first 4 minutes, Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins both swished 3-pointers and Mbakwe blocked two turnaround shots by Jordan Morgan, just the right way to rev up the crowd.
The Gophers are built around an aggressive, athletic defense that Smith has long employed, annually leading the conference in blocks and steals. But the Wolverines can guard people, too, and they made the Gophers pay nearly every time they made a rushed, forced or panicked pass under heavy ball pressure. The Wolverines entered the game with the fewest fouls in the nation at 11.6 per game.
Hardaway knocked down his share of shots to deflate the Gophers defense a bit and keep the fans from overtaking the game. The Wolverines, who matched the best start in program history at 16-0, fell behind by 21 points in the first half of their 56-53 loss at Ohio State last Sunday. They made sure to avoid a similar sloppy early performance, forcing enough misses and turnovers by the Gophers to ignite their breath-taking fast break.
Smith again watched his five backups collectively struggle, and the Wolverines took advantage during a 2-minute stretch in the middle of the first half after Andre Hollins picked up his second foul. Mitch McGary took a second straight turnover by point guard Maverick Ahanmisi and cruised for a dunk at the other end to put Michigan up 16-13. Julian Welch, the one second-stringer who contributed, scored eight points in the first half.
Burke, who switched jerseys during a timeout from No. 3 to a generic No. 12 without his name on the back, wasn’t able to find much room with his usual extra-quick drives into the lane or along the baseline, but he ran that transition game like a seasoned pro. He found Hardaway streaking ahead of him and zinged a perfect lob pass for a dunk with 3:11 left in the half. That came right after the Gophers cut the lead to two, the closest they came
Then the duo did it again shortly after halftime, pushing Michigan ahead 42-32. The Wolverines put together a 20-7 run to stretch the lead to 56-37, punctuating the takeover with a steal by Robinson near midcourt from Williams and a 360-degree dunk on the other end.
The Gophers didn’t go away, though, and Andre Hollins came alive after his dormant, foul-plagued first half. Coleman, who had only one point in the first half, sneaked inside for a layup to pull Minnesota within nine points. He missed two free throws, though, with 3:55 left to fail to get the Gophers closer.