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March 23, 2013Michigan started strong and never relented against a VCU team many thought would give the Wolverines a battle. The Wolverines created havoc of their own for the Rams on both ends, turning it over only 12 times against the vaunted VCU defense in running away with a 78-53 win, punching their ticket to the Sweet 16.
Smart, admittedly an admirer of Beilein's coaching ability, left impressed.
"I thought Michigan was terrific today and they played great every facet of the game - the guards, their big guys," Smart said. "They obviously were the much better team today, and if they continue playing the way they did today, they've got a chance to go a long way in this tournament. It was not our best game, but again, a lot of it had to do with Michigan. They were terrific."
Particularly the way they broke the press, Smart said. The Rams forced Burke into seven turnovers, three to start the second half, but the Wolverines only had 12 total.
U-M led by 15 at the break and quickly expanded the lead in the second half.
"Tim Hardaway did a nice job against the pressure, Nik Stauskas did a nice job. Glenn Robinson helped out," Smart said. "I thought that as a team they did a good job.
"We had stretches where we bothered them. We were able to turn Burke over seven times, which is a great number for someone that's that good of a player, but overall, we only forced twelve turnovers, which is much lower than what we normally do. They were able to, when they did break the press, really make us pay, and I'm sure that was their game plan. We didn't fix it well enough out of the press. So that was one of the big differences in the game."
So, too, was Michigan's offense in the halfcourt. The Wolverines were patient from the top down, and it resulted in a number of good looks.
"Burke was able to get in the lane, other guys were able to get in the lane, and then our big guys had to help up and they dropped it off to McGary or kicked it out for three," Smart said. "Michigan did a tremendous job of capitalizing on those opportunities. Sometimes when you force those types of situations, it ends up actually being good for you because the other team takes a hurried shot and misses. But Michigan capitalized almost every time.
"Once they had that lead in the second half and they were able to break pressure, their guards kind of dribbled around, Burke and some of their other guys. I thought the kid [Spike] Albrecht did a nice job coming in and contributing for them and playing under control."
As a result, the Wolverines move on to face the winner of Kansas and North Carolina in the South Regional in Arlington next Friday.
"You've got to give credit to Michigan for making sure that they were on the offensive and very aggressive the whole day. When we're not the most aggressive team on the floor, then that typically doesn't bode well for us, and today we certainly were not."
McGary impresses Rams
Michigan freshman big man Mitch McGary was an absolute beast for the Wolverines, scoring 21 points and adding 14 rebounds in his best game in a Michigan uniform. He dove for loose balls, set bone jarring picks and was the catalyst from start to finish inside.
"He was a great player," VCU's Juvonte Riddic said. "He was very strong in the post, and he just outworked me tonight. He got the better end of the game, the top, and I expected him to be physical like he was tonight."
Smart had seen enough of McGary in AAU ball and high school that he wasn't surprised by the effort - at least not completely.
"There's a reason - I think at one point in the year, at one point in his senior year he was in the top two or three players in the nation," Smart said. "He came in here as a very talented kid, and then the coaching staff at Michigan's done an unbelievable job molding him and teaching him how to be successful at this level.
"He's had that motor since high school, but they've given him great guidance. He outworked us today. He was terrific. He went down and chased all the loose balls. He was very good on the defensive end, a physical presence. I knew he was really good, but I certainly didn't know he was going to have 21 and 14 against us. But that's what good players do at this time of year; they step up and play their best."