Michigan brushed off that first loss in style. The Wolverines weren’t fazed by another road game in a raucous arena of a highly ranked opponent.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points and Trey Burke had 18 points and nine assists to help No. 5 Michigan stave off No. 9 Minnesota 83-75 on Thursday night, after falling at rival Ohio State four days before.
“We came out with a higher intensity than last game and set the tone first,” Burke said, adding: “We got our confidence back, and that’s important.”
Hardaway hit four 3-pointers in the first half for the Wolverines (17-1, 4-1 Big Ten), who held the lead for the final 33 minutes of the game and finished with 13 steals to fuel their fast break. Nik Stauskas added 11 points, and now Michigan has a week to rest before a home game against Purdue.
“When you don’t lose very often, they really hit hard,” coach John Beilein said. “I think it’s important for your mental health.”
Austin Hollins led the Gophers (15-3, 3-2) with 21 points and four steals, and Trevor Mbakwe had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Andre Hollins was drawn into early foul trouble, but he came alive after halftime to finish with 13 points and four assists.
The Gophers crept back in the game after falling behind by 19 points early in the second half but squandered some opportunities to really make the Wolverines worry. Joe Coleman missed three of four free throws in the final 4 minutes.
Rodney Williams cut the margin to 77-70 with 2:40 remaining and the Gophers got the ball back, but a 3-pointer by Williams rolled off the rim and Andre Hollins had his put-back attempt blocked underneath.
Burke stretched the lead to nine points with two free throws with 43 seconds left, effectively sealing another signature victory for the Wolverines.
“We’re going to have to do something out of the ordinary to be in the Big Ten hunt,” Beilein said. “Every team is going to have to do that.”
Michigan moved into a four-way tie for second place in the stacked conference behind surprisingly unbeaten Wisconsin. Minnesota lost its second straight game after falling 88-81 at Indiana last Saturday. The Wolverines have beaten the Gophers in eight of their last nine meetings.
“It’s very big, especially for our young guys,” Hardaway said. “It shows that they can win through adversity and they can limit mistakes. It shows that we can trust them and we know that they can handle it.”
This was the first game at Williams Arena pitting two top-10 teams in The Associated Press poll since Michigan visited Minnesota in 1977, and the fans at “The Barn” raised the noise level to the occasion. In the first 4 minutes, Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins both swished 3-pointers and Mbakwe blocked two turnaround shots by Jordan Morgan, just the right way to rev up the crowd.
The Gophers are built around an aggressive, athletic defense that coach Tubby Smith has long employed, but the Wolverines can guard people, too, and they made the Gophers pay nearly every time they made a rushed, forced or panicked pass under heavy ball pressure. The Wolverines entered the game with the fewest fouls in the nation at 11.6 per game, and they emerged from this physical contest with ripped jerseys by three players (Burke, Stauskas and Morgan) and more moxie for the rest of the way.
“Got cuts and everything. But it’s great. That’s Big Ten basketball,” Hardaway said. “Just trying to embrace it as much as possible.”
Hardaway knocked down his share of shots to deflate the Gophers defense and keep the fans from overtaking the game.
“He’s got a presence on this team, both offensively and defensively,” Beilein said. “That is really making our guys go.”
Austin Hollins, the Gophers’ best defender, slowed him down after halftime, but the damage was done.
“He’s a talented player,” Hollins said, adding: “I did what I could. He made a lot of tough shots.”
The Wolverines, who matched the best start in program history at 16-0, fell behind by 21 points in the first half of their 56-53 loss to the Buckeyes last Sunday. This time they took better care of the ball and forced enough misses and turnovers by the Gophers to ignite their breath-taking fast break.
Minnesota’s backups collectively struggled, and the Wolverines took advantage during a 2-minute stretch in the middle of the first half after Andre Hollins picked up his second foul. Julian Welch, the one second-stringer who contributed, scored eight points in the first half.
Burke found Hardaway streaking ahead of him and zinged a perfect lob pass for a dunk with 3:11 left in the half. That came right after the Gophers cut the lead to two, the closest they came in the final 33 minutes.
Then the duo did it again shortly after halftime, pushing Michigan ahead 42-32. The Wolverines put together a 20-7 run to stretch the lead to 56-37, punctuating the takeover with a steal by Glenn Robinson III near midcourt from Williams and a 360-degree dunk on the other end.
With his team trailing 36-30 at halftime, Smith expected the second-half surge to come right away.
“It was just the opposite. Usually we respond much better than that, but I don’t know what happened there,” he said.