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January 6, 2013

U-M's defense, transition offense help overcome slow start

For those waiting for the Michigan basketball team to show some kind of weakness, have a sloppy game or not match an opponent's intensity level, Sunday afternoon looked as though it might provide some sort of Wolverine schadenfreude.

Iowa jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the first four-and-a-half minutes, while Michigan looked out of sync for the first time this season. But the players did not panic.

"I had to tell the guys a couple weeks ago, 'We're not going to blow everyone out. There are going to be teams that challenge us.' That is out mentality," sophomore point guard Trey Burke said. "That's how we go into the game. We don't think, 'We're going to blow these guys out.' I wouldn't say there was any concern once they got up on us, though. We stayed together as a team, started to get stops on defense and got out in transition and that opened up out half-court offense."

Ten minutes into the first half, the Wolverines were still battling with the Hawkeyes, down 19-17.

From there on out, it was all Michigan.

The Maize and Blue outscored Iowa 29-16 in the final 10 minutes of the half - and 78-48 in the game's final 30 minutes, easily outracing the Hawkeyes, 95-67.

"There were a couple times when we kind of forced things in transition, and got out of character," Burke said. "Once we settled down, got into the rhythm of things, ran our offense and made Iowa play some defense it helped us out a lot. We got some big buckets and we were able to go inside and get kick-outs, we hit some big shots and we opened up the game."

Junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. pointed to freshman Mitch McGary as a catalyst for the Wolverines' resurgence in the middle of the first half.

Checking in for redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan, who picked up two early fouls, McGary was unintentionally elbowed in the nose by Iowa center Adam Woodbury.

"It wasn't intentional or anything like that, but I took an elbow to the nose, and got a bloody nose," McGary said. "After that, it flipped a switch. It helped to pick up the intensity."

"That run was definitely huge. And that all started off with Mitch McGary coming off the bench and giving us that intensity," Hardaway added. "That really set the tone, and that's what we need from him throughout the season."

McGary also sparked one of the highlight-worthy plays that helped build momentum in the waning minutes.

With less than three minutes to go in the first half, Iowa forward Aaorn White went up for a jumper and was forcibly denied by McGary, leading to an easy transition layup for Burke at the other end.

"The block by Mitch may have been the biggest turning points, because we got out and got two quick points on that possession, too," Burke said. "The turning point was the defensive end. It's as simple as that. Offense, we knew it was going to come. Guys can score - anyone can have 20 on any given night, so we had to focus on getting stops, and we did that."

Note: Wolverines Get Alley-Oop Going

The alley-oop, for Michigan this season, has been like the perfect word on the tip of your tip of your tongue - so close but you just can't come up with it.

But the Wolverines - specifically Burke and freshman Glenn Robinson III - finally got it rolling with perfect timing on three occasions.

"We practice that a lot," Robinson said. "I see him and then I just run my lane and he throws it up there and I go get it. We have great chemistry on that. We talk all the time about it. I know he's going to throw it up or keep it, if he sees a lane.

"It was a lot of fun. It's great, because you get a lot of energy from your teammates after something like that. We definitely connected on those. In the past, it might have been my fault, who knows. I couldn't get all of them, but I tended to get them today."

There's no signal on the court for the play, which makes it even more impressive, considering Burke and Robinson have not had much time together to work on it.

"It's kind of just eye contact," Robinson said. "These guys just throw it up there, and they know I'll get it."

"We know Glenn can catch them and put them in," Burke added. "We know Mitch and J-Mo and Tim can do it, too. We practice those almost every day. Coach does a good job of allowing us to get repetitions, and I think the more reps we get, the better we'll be able to do that.

"The one in the first half was a little weird. Once I got to the rim, the defender completely committed to me. I don't know if he didn't see Glenn or was trying to take a charge on me. I was aware of him about to take the charge, so I just threw it up and got out of the way. But I think that was a big momentum-booster for us."


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