It’s rare that a star player is commended after putting up a goose egg in the scoring column, but when said player helps his team light up the scoreboard by dishing out nine assists without committing a turnover... an exception has to be made. That was the case for Trey Burke at halftime of Tuesday night’s victory over North Carolina State. The sophomore point guard was the consummate floor general last night, taking what the defense gave him by setting up his teammates in the first half, then exploding for 18 points of his own in the second. Coming out of the halftime locker room he very quickly sensed it was time for him to begin attacking himself.
“I was getting deep in the paint and guys were kind of shading the perimeter,” Burke explained. “That’s when I could get to the rack or get a guy up and drop it off.”
When the dust settled he had amassed 18 points, 11 assists, and zero turnovers. According to Michigan Basketball’s official twitter account he became the first player in college basketball “with at least 18 points and 10 assists in a zero turnover game against a ranked opponent since 2003.”
While it’s clear that much of Burke’s growth is a product of experience and hard work in the offseason, he is the first to credit the improved talent around him as a major factor as well. Tuesday, the player on the receiving end of a number of his assists was freshman guard, Nik Stauskas. Last night the talented youngster bombed his way to 20 points, including 4/7 from long range.
“That’s probably the best shooter I’ve played with,” said Burke afterward. “He shoots like a pro. You’ve just got to be honest. He hits shots, and that’s a good thing for us because it opens up the inside and the outside (for other) guys. (Defenses) kind of shade to him (and it) kind of creates alley drives for the other guards.”
“I told him if you’ve got the shot, shoot it. That’s what you do if guys are going to leave you open.”
Stauskas’ marksmanship has already drawn comparisons to that of past shooting greats that donned the Maize & Blue. He's arguably the best to hoist them from behind the arc in Ann Arbor since Louis Bullock. Teams are quickly discovering that when they leave him to help off of Stauskas, they do so at their own peril. As a matter of fact, opponents might be best served to simply leave him open instead of closing out to contest his shot. Two of his misses Tuesday came when no defender was in the vicinity.
“I think I shoot better when I have people running at me,” Stauskas said. “I don’t think about it as much when people are running at me. I just shoot it quicker.”
After five consecutive games in double figures, it begs the question, is it time to insert this shooting phenom in the starting lineup?
“I want to see Matt (Vogrich) have some success in there (and) Nik has adjusted so well to (coming off the bench)… but it is something you have to consider down the line,” admitted Michigan headman, John Beilein.
But for now, with a 6-0 record the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach certainly applies. Beilein’s desire for instant offense off the bench is being satisfied, and if the Wolverines can avoid the slow starts that plagued them in a few of the games prior to Tuesday night’s victory, the status quo will do just fine.
“Coming off the bench, that’s another thing (that has made Stauskas so effective),” said Burke. “If he were to start I think guys would be more into him off the get go, but when he comes off the bench and hits a three right when he comes in… that kind of shocks the defense.”
For his part, Stauskas is satisfied with doing whatever his team needs him to – shoot, drive, pass, come off the bench… it’s all the same to him.
“I’m still coming off the bench, but at this point it’s something I’m fine with,” he stated. “He likes me coming into the game and he has given me the green light to shoot and do what I want. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Notable Quotable: Trey Burke on the Wolverines' improving defensively…
“We’ve got to better on the defensive end down the stretch. We let (NC State) get back into the game because we kind of got tired down the stretch and they outrebounded us. That’s something that we can fix, it’s just an attitude to implement.”
“We would score, kind of celebrate, relax, and they would get it out and get it up the court and get fouled or get a layup. We’ll watch film on that, make adjustments, and move on from there.”