Top-ranked Michigan rolls past Northwestern 68-46
By NOAH TRISTER
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Trey Burke raised his eyebrows in disbelief when asked about Michigan's most remarkable stat of the night.
"We only had two turnovers as a team?" Burke said.
The top-ranked Wolverines were nearly flawless at the start Wednesday night, and they went on to an easy 68-46 victory over Northwestern.
Burke had 18 points and eight assists in Michigan's first game since taking over the top spot in the AP poll for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
The Wolverines (20-1, 7-1 Big Ten) made 10 of their first 11 shots and went the entire first half without a turnover. They didn't commit a foul, either, until the final minute of the half.
Michigan's two turnovers for the game equaled a national low for any team this season, according to STATS.
"There's been times we had two turnovers ... in the first minute," coach John Beilein said. "We'll take it, and we'll move on."
The Wolverines can now prepare for Saturday night's showdown at No. 3 Indiana. Michigan fans began chanting "Beat the Hoosiers!" toward the end of Wednesday's game.
Although Northwestern also shot well at the beginning, the Wolverines were relentless. Some of their points came easily, such as an alley-oop from Burke to Glenn Robinson III in transition.
But Michigan was also sharp from the outside. Nik Stauskas made a 3-pointer and Robinson added a layup, causing Wildcats coach Bill Carmody to call the first of two early timeouts. Stauskas added another 3 to give the Wolverines a 15-9 lead, and Michigan led by as many as 16 later in the half.
It was 36-21 at halftime.
The Wolverines didn't have any turnovers until 6-foot-10 freshman Mitch McGary tried to start a fast break himself by dribbling up the court and lost the ball with less than 12 minutes left.
"It's a very good passing team, especially with Burke," Carmody said. "They don't make mistakes. It's a good team. They can make you look pretty bad sometimes."
Alex Olah scored 10 points for Northwestern (12-10, 3-6).
"You have to approach every team the same, but we know that's the best team in the country, and Trey's one of the best players in the nation," Olah said. "Even if you make him give up the ball, they've got so many other guys who can score."
Northwestern looked ready to make a game of it when Dave Sobolewski was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 15:37 to play and the score 40-31, but the sophomore guard missed all three free throws.
A three-point play by Horford made it 50-33.
Michigan finished at only 51 percent from the field, but Northwestern never really recovered from the early flurry.
Although Beilein has done his best to downplay the No. 1 ranking, there was a slightly different vibe before this game in Ann Arbor. Courtside fans were given big foam fingers to hold.
The Wolverines twice needed overtime to beat Northwestern last season, but Michigan won the first meeting of 2012-13 by 28 points earlier this month.
As expected, the rematch was played at a slow pace - which made Michigan's quick double-digit lead all the more impressive.
"We have played Northwestern 12 times. I will be 60 soon, but I'm going to celebrate it as my 72nd birthday," Beilein said. "They've aged me 12 years. Getting ready for them is incredible. It is a tremendous challenge for our team."
Northwestern beat Illinois and Minnesota recently, but the Wildcats are without forward Drew Crawford for the rest of the season because of a right shoulder injury. Reggie Hearn, the team's leading scorer, was held to seven points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Northwestern shot 4 of 19 from 3-point range.
Robinson scored 13 points for Michigan, and Stauskas added 11.
Updated January 30, 2013