NEW YORK, N.Y.– It’s difficult to keep the No. 4 team in the nation on its heels for the first 31 minutes of a game. Pittsburgh did that.
But there’s often a reason behind those polls and, in the final nine minutes of its 67-62 win over Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden, Michigan showed why it could have so much Top-5 potential.
“We anticipated that sort of defensive struggle,” said coach John Beilein. “I’m really proud of the way we handled the comeback and made our free throws down the stretch.”
After getting just two shots in the first half, star freshman Glenn Robinson III was 4-of-6 from the field in the second half, finishing with 13 points and keying a 12-3 run in the middle of the final period that helped put Michigan ahead for good Wednesday night.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., also had a big hand in the comeback, scoring 16 points on the night, including an important three-pointer with 6:04 remaining that gave the Wolverines a four-point lead. At that juncture, it was Michigan’s largest advantage of the night.
“Without question, [Hardaway] has worked so hard to be more than just a shooter,” said Beilein. “As far as driving and finishing at the basket, even against tough chests he scored.”
“I think it was a great job of our teammates finding us,” said Hardaway. “I think it was looking at the defense and taking what the defense gave us. Trey Burke and the guards did a great job of penetrating and kicking out to us wings.”
Michigan led by as many as nine in the final two minutes and fended off a late Pittsburgh comeback to seal the victory.
Sophomore Trey Burke, having foregone a chance to jump to the NBA after last season, did not shoot particularly from the field (5-of-16) but finished with a game-high 17 points.
“We just came out at halftime with a different attitude,” said Burke. “We knew pretty much what we needed to fix and the things we needed to change. I think it was just a matter of adjustments from the first half and giving them different looks on the defensive end.”
Pittsburgh’s ball movement on the offensive end was the key to staying in the game Wednesday, resulting in 15 assists on 24 made baskets. True freshman point guard James Robinson was the biggest facilitator of that production, finishing with seven assists and adding eight points.
Dixon got major minutes from his bench, led by guard Cameron Wright. Wright had eight points.
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas was the Wolverines’ biggest contributor off the bench with 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Michigan moves on to play Kansas State in Friday night’s championship of the Preseason NIT. Pittsburgh will play Delaware in the consolation game.