The No. 3 Michigan Wolverines gave credence to their ranking Tuesday night, beating the 18th-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack 79-72 at home in the Crisler Center.
John Beilein's squad took a 43-36 lead into halftime, and they didn't take their foot off the gas in the second half either. N.C. State made a habit of cutting the deficit to five points or so, only to watch Michigan answer with a few big buckets the other way.
The Wolfpack tried to make a late push, even scoring 10 straight at one point, but couldn't quite string enough baskets together to make it happen. An offensive foul call on C.J. Leslie with less than a minute and the Wolfpack trailing by five sealed it.
It didn't matter if starters were scoring or if bench players were contributing, the Wolverines came out firing on all cylinders.
Between Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke, Michigan used its backcourt to overmatch the visitors early on. Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan contributed as well, but the first half was all about spreading N.C. State out, shooting and attacking the rim.
Burke paced the Wolverines offense for the entire night—dishing out a career-high 11 assists. He consistently found open teammates, making things very easy for guys like Stauskas, who scored 20 points off the bench, to find favorable shots.
The Wolfpack couldn't get anything going on offense, turning the ball over 12 times.The Wolverines' 1-3-1 zone gave Lorenzo Brown difficulties on the perimeter and neutralized some of N.C. State's athleticism.
ACC Player of the Year favorite C.J. Leslie had 16 points and 10 rebounds, but he still tends to disappear on the offensive end in stretches. T.J. Warren and Richard Howell also played well underneath, but Leslie must carry this team if they want to win.
Adding to N.C. State's problems were its issues on defense. Michigan can score the basketball, but it was obvious that the Wolfpack didn't have the right personnel to match up on the perimeter.
If Michigan plays like this every night, good luck. The Wolverines minimized turnovers, made the extra pass and knocked down open shots. They're a disciplined team, and everyone understands what their role is on both ends of the floor.
The Wolfpack now have two early-season losses, but it's far from panic time. This is a very talented squad, and things will fall into place before March rolls around. This team showed a ton of heart at the end of the game, even if it was in a losing effort.
Let's recap this one some more, starting with some Twitter reaction.
ESPN's Michael Rothstein pointed out why Michigan's offense is so difficult to contain:
Why Michigan is dangerous this season? Last 16 pts have been from Stauskas, McGary & Morgan. No Robinson, Hardaway or Burke.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) November 28, 2012
ESPN Stats & Info shows just how hard the Wolverines are to stop:
Michigan 11-17 from field so far vs NC State. Wolverines entered day ranked No. 4 in nation in pts per possession #ACCvsBIGTEN— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 28, 2012
CBS Sports analyst and former NBA player Wally Szczerbiak had this to say:
ESPN's Ken Cross spoke to N.C. State's issues:
ESPN's Josh Houchins thinks there could be better days ahead for the Wolfpack:
Really high on NC State prior to season, yet seen them three times now and keep shaking my head. Still could be deadly come March.— Josh Houchins (@JWHooch) November 28, 2012
Sports Illustrated's Rob Dauster is sold:
Call me crazy, but after seeing 88 minutes of Michigan, I think there's a legitimate argument to make they're the best team in the country.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) November 28, 2012
Player of the Game: Trey Burke
Burke entered this year as one of the nation's best point guards, and he didn't disappoint Tuesday night.
His matchup with Lorenzo Brown was one of the most anticipated storylines of the evening, and he shined. Facilitating the offense and scoring the basketball, Burke left no doubts as to who is ready to lead his team to victory, at least for now.
The Wolverines point guard finished the evening with 18 points and 11 assists, but his zero turnovers might be the most impressive part.
If Burke plays like this, Michigan will be in it until the bitter end this season.
Michigan will play Bradley on Saturday, while N.C. State plays UConn next Tuesday.