What was billed as a battle between two of the best point guards in the country was not so, as Michigan dropped South Dakota State 71-56.
Trey Burke, a favorite for the Wooden Award, and Nate Wolters, the second best scorer in America, were set to battle it out in this first round game. The match-up was built up by the national media as a must see, including by myself. Burke, who wowed the Big Ten with his dazzling quickness and ability to balance his scoring (19.2 ppg) with his Big Ten best assisting and assist-to-turnover ratio, would be countered with the sharpshooting and crafty Wolters. The duo combined to average 41.9 ppg this season. Thursday evening they combined for just 16 points.
Burke went just 2-12 from the field but added 7 assists. He also had a scary moment about midway through the second half when he fell while going up for a rebound. It appeared he had hit his head, but the replays showed his neck had just whipped back. Burke returned and appeared to be fine, after giving Michigan fans a scare.
Wolters went 3-14, including a number of shots that seemed to go in and out. He added 6 assists and 5 rebounds. South Dakota State would not really have had a shot unless Wolters played exceptionally well. Not only did he fail to do that, but Wolters was just terrible. It is a tough way for him to end a great career.
It was Michigan’s supporting cast that shined over the two lackluster point guard performances. Tim Hardaway Jr scored 21 points including five threes. He looked like a player that deserved to be on the All-Big Ten first team offensively.
Freshman Glenn Robinson III also put in 21 points, in a super-efficient performance. He was 8-9 from the field, including 5-5 from three. Robinson controlled the early part of the second half for Michigan, scoring their first eleven points.
Fellow freshman Mitch McGary had just his third start of the season for the Wolverines and excelled in the role. He had a near double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds. McGary brought the energy that makes him so special, along with at least a little bit of control to his game. Jordan Morgan played just one minute in the game, despite averaging 18 minutes a game.
For Michigan, they proved they could win impressively without a very good performance from Burke. This was the first time Burke failed to score in double figures all season. Luckily for Michigan, it did not cost them in their biggest stage of the season. Burke and the Wolverines will move on to play the winner of VCU vs Akron on Saturday.