No. 3 Michigan beats N.C. State, 79-72, in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

By Everett Cook

Three minutes into No. 3 Michigan’s 79-72 win over No. 18 North Carolina State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, it was quiet in the Crisler Center.

The student section was full for the first time this season and had been loud during the pregame ceremony when Michigan raised a banner to honor last season’s co-Big Ten Championship. But now, three minutes into the game, the crowd had quieted down, waiting for the Wolverines to get going.

Play started sloppily — the two teams combined for four turnovers in the first three minutes — and Michigan’s starting shooting guard, Matt Vogrich, had just picked up his second foul. Plus, the senior had started off the game with a turnover that led to an easy Wolfpack dunk for the first points of the contest.

In came freshman guard Nik Stauskas, who kick-started the Michigan offense. After a quick Stauskas bucket, the crowd was back into it. Stauskas, and Michigan, didn’t look back. The Wolverines ultimately overcame the relentless play of N.C. State to hang on to the seven-point lead late.

“I’m still coming off the bench, but at this point that’s something I’m fine with,” Stauskas said. “(Michigan coach John Beilein) likes me coming into the game and he is giving me the green light to shoot and do what I want, so you can’t ask for any more than that.”

After his first bucket of the game, Stauskas went on a stretch where he scored 10 of Michigan’s 12 points. He finished the first half with 13 points on five shots and helped key a 16-4 Wolverine run. The Wolfpack had their biggest run of the first half when Stauskas was on the bench, scoring seven in a row. With Stauskas back in the game, Michigan stopped the run and regained the game’s momentum.

The freshman finished the night with a game-high and career-high 20 points, a total that included four 3-pointers.

The other impressive night belonged to sophomore point guard Trey Burke, who tied his career-high in assists, nine, at the end of the first half. Burke finished the first half with zero points and zero turnovers.

The second half started a little differently for Burke. Less than seven minutes after halftime, he hit a pull-up 3-pointer to score his 10th point of the night — and secure his first career double-double. He finished the contest with 18 points, 11 assists and zero turnovers.

“I was getting deep in the paint and guys were kind of shading the perimeter,” Burke said. “(The second half was) when I could get to the rack … it was just matter of making reads.”

The Wolfpack were trying to push the ball at every available opportunity, and also attempted a full-court press at one point. The pressure caught the Wolverines napping at points during fast breaks but wasn’t as effective as N.C. State hoped.

Michigan finished the game with just six turnovers — two of which were given up in the first two minutes of the game. On top of that, the Wolverines’ first turnover of the second half came with 4:34 left in the game.

N.C. State had four players score in double figures, but couldn’t do enough defensively to slow Michigan down. The lead shrunk to within five points with less than a minute to play, but an offensive foul drawn by freshman Mitch McGary effectively sealed the game.

Coming off a championship in the weak NIT Season Tip-Off field, the Wednesday matchup was Michigan’s first real challenge of the season, a statement win against its first ranked opponent of the year.

“I think we have a lot of good options and I think most good teams do,” Beilein said. “I like coaching these guys … they are just good kids to coach. They buy into what you’re doing, whether they played six minutes, didn’t play or played 39 minutes, they have a similar attitude in the locker room.

“If we can maintain that unity, that’s going to be a big part of determining our success.”

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