When fourth seed Michigan shoots the ball well, it is one of the most dangerous teams in this year's 2013 NCAA tournament.
That was the story on Thursday night against the No. 13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits, as Michigan took a four-point halftime lead and turned it into a double-digit one down the stretch, holding off highly-touted guard Nate Wolters and the Jackrabbits enough to pick up a 71-56 second-round tournament victory.
On a night when Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke struggled from the field, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III provided all the scoring the team needed, combining for 42 points and eight three-pointers on the evening.
Michigan struggled out of the gate, falling behind to the Jackrabbits in the early stages after Burke's shot refused to go down.
Hardaway Jr. then took over, hitting an onslaught of first-half threes en route to five on the night and 21 points that carried the Wolverines throughout. Robinson III quietly made open jump shots and play a very efficient game, shooting 8-of-9 from the field and finishing with 21 points of his own.
Burke finished with six points.
Mitch McGary added 13 points and nine rebounds, earning the rare start as postseason play begins, and he rewarded the coaching staff for that decision with his stellar energy on both ends.
The story for the Jackrabbits was senior guard Wolters, who averaged 22.7 points in the regular season for South Dakota State. He struggled from the outset and finished with only 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting, rimming out most of his shots and just not getting the shooter's roll on the others that can be the difference in a mediocre game and a terrible one.
Brayden Carlson kept South Dakota State in the game in the first half, scoring 16 points in the opening frame. He would finish with 20, a mark that led the team in the disappointing second-round loss—the team's second in a row after last year's loss to Baylor in this same position.
South Dakota State played just six players in the loss.
The Jackrabbits couldn't close the gap enough to make things interesting down the stretch, and will go home after one game for the second year in a row. Michigan survives to play another game, and will get the winner of Thursday night's game between Virginia Commonwealth and Akron.
Check out the sections before for more Twitter reaction and analysis from Thursday night's game between these two tournament teams.
Like many Michigan fans who have begged for this kind of play all season, Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey was loving himself some McGary on Thursday night:
Michael Schottey @Schottey
Mitch McGary's game has some shades of Kevin Love—the hustle, the off-ball movement, the outlet passes—and he's just a freshman2013-3-22 00:58:20
Dan Dakich tweeted about the freshman forward being the key to the season for this team in the tournament—confirmed by his sources earlier this week:
Dan Dakich @dandakich
Michigan staff told me at the Preseason NIT that Mitch McGary was the key to a deep run..country is getting a preview2013-3-22 00:54:51
Christian rapper Lacrae wasn't buying South Dakota State as a sleeper upset pick:
Chill out with this South Dakota State stuff. Lol2013-3-21 23:19:46
As noted by ESPN's Stats and Information, tonight's marquee matchup turned out to be a dud:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Trey Burke & Nate Wolters have combined for 6 points at the half. Burke & Wolters combined average 42 PPG this season.2013-3-22 00:15:36
And it wasn't because Burke was just uncharacteristically bad—Wolters was playing great defense, as noted by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:
Jonathan Givony @DraftExpress
Both. Wolters' D has been impressive. RT @_theDESTROYER: Is Trey Burke just taking bad shots or is Nate Wolters actually playing solid D?2013-3-22 00:00:30
Jason McIntyre couldn't quite put his finger on a reasonable comparison for Wolters:
Jason McIntyre @jasonrmcintyre
so far, Nate Wolters comps: Mark Price (i buy that), Kirk Hinrich (not as much), Dragic (good), Ginobili (nah), Ridnour (better shooter)2013-3-22 00:05:30
Jim Costa pointed out an important fact—the Wolverines were able to win on a night Burke struggled. It's a good sign for the rest of Michigan's chances to make the Final Four:
Jim Costa @JimCosta_
GRIII and Tim Hardaway both scoring tonight. To win with Burke 1-10, that is a great sign for Michigan.2013-3-22 00:53:19
And finally, Josh Newman gives us the question of the night:
Josh Newman @Joshua_Newman
Honest question: Could 46-year-old Tim Hardaway beat his kid 1-on-1? I say no, but dad would be a handful2013-3-22 00:57:55
It's tough to put your finger on this Michigan team.
It faltered down the stretch, but talented guards and forwards like this team has don't go away easy in the NCAA tournament. Although Burke struggled to get his shot to fall, his teammates picked him up in a big way, and avoided a serious letdown in the process.
Again, a lights-out Michigan team is down-right scary.
The Wolverines shot 50 percent from the floor and 45 percent from deep, killing the Jackrabbits all night with penetration and offensive rebounds from McGary and company. It got whatever shot it wanted in the second half, in large part because Burke was still distributing (seven assists) despite the lack of a shot.
Huge win for Michigan. The monkey is off the backs of these players, and they can now await the winner of VCU and Akron to see what the necessary strategy will be on Saturday afternoon.