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Either way this game went, it was bound to be a statement. After falling behind quickly against Ohio State and not having enough in the tank to make the full comeback, a second straight road loss to a similarly athletic Gophers team might have portended bad things to come in the future.
Instead, Michigan made a statement of redemption and maturation. The Wolverines weathered an early barrage of outside shots, pounced when Austin Hollins went out with foul trouble, and then came out of the gates in the second half swinging -- building the lead that would ultimately hold the rest of the way.
Michigan does still have trouble completely burying good teams -- the Gophers fought back to single digits in this one -- but that doesn't give Michigan credit for winning despite A) Minnesota at one point in the game having made eight of ten from deep and B) Minnesota thoroughly beating Michigan on the boards 30-19 while pulling down 12 offensive rebounds. At the end of the day, there are few better ways to rack up a quality win than going on the road in the Big Ten and building a nearly 20 point lead.
Michigan now gets a week off before its next game against Purdue. After that things turn into quite a gauntlet in early February. If Michigan keeps playing like it did last night, you have to like the team's odds.
Trey Burke - I'm running out of superlatives. Watching the way Burke handled himself against the Minnesota defense was impressive. Minnesota kept trying to pressure Burke all over the court and he just shook it off time after time. In transition he was great, always perfectly controlled. He's the type of player that looks like he actually runs faster when he dribbles. You can tell why the rest of the team gets out and runs in transition -- they know he can and will get them the ball.
Tim Hardaway Jr. - I'll get the bad out of the way right now. Six turnovers is way too many. Its the kind of line that most of the time you harp on. But I can't even be mad. Hardaway did nearly everything else right. He was 7/8 from the floor and four of those makes (and the only miss) came from deep. He also chipped in five rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks. Hardaway was a big reason Michigan went into the locker room with a lead in the first half.
Nik Stauskas - While his three point shot hasn't been falling, Stauskas is showing an ability to score in other ways that really have to get you excited. He isn't just a shooter, but a complete offensive player that can handle the ball in the backcourt and take it inside on drives.
Glenn Robinson III - The athletic freshmen continues to do what he does. Need a big three? He can hit it. Rebounds? He ties the team lead. Steals? Three of them, including one that led to his 360 slam on the other end. Michigan's wealth of offensive options is almost unfair at this point.
Mitch McGary - Speaking of which, McGary continues to show more and more flashes of being the kind of player Michigan needs on the inside. McGary can score in a variety of ways, and has the athleticism and size to be a better post defender than Jordan Morgan (who is no slouch himself). McGary's development could be an underrated factor in what this team can accomplish come March.
Jordan Morgan - Even with McGary showing flashes of what he is able to do, Jordan Morgan continues to show why he is such a valuable player. Nine points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. He is always going to play an important role on this team because he is just so quietly effective.
Spike Albrecht - That little baseline floater he threw up sure was sweet. I also like seeing that Beilein trusts him enough to put him on the court late when Minnesota was obviously trying to get a steal or foul. Shows his composure and the faith the coaches have in him.
Caris LeVert - First the good. Coming off the bench and hitting that three was the spark Michigan needed at that moment, and his two free throws after that were big as well. However, he followed all that up with a pretty costly turnover. Still, it is easy to see why the coaches burned his redshirt. The kid can score.