Jan. 30, 2013
By Morgan Bailey, U-M Public & Media Relations
The University of Michigan men's basketball team swept the regular-season series with Northwestern on Wednesday night (Jan. 30), defeating the Wildcats, 68-46. The victory continued the Wolverines' best start to a season in program history, with their overall record currently 20-1 and 7-1 in Big Ten play. With the impressive start to the season, the Maize and Blue has propelled to the No. 1 spot in the latest Associated Press poll for the first time since the 1992-93 season. Quarterbacking the Wolverine offense the entire season, and currently a frontrunner for several national Player of the Year awards, has been sophomore point guard Trey Burke.
With more than half of U-M's regular-season games complete, Burke is averaging career-high numbers in points (17.9), assists (7.1) and field goal percentage (49.4). Additionally, with eight assists in tonight's win, Burke surpassed the 300-career assists mark.
"I give my teammates all of the credit," Burke humbly commented when told he passed the landmark assist number. "When you're surrounded by guys that are so unselfish and do what is best for the team, then good things are bound to happen. I'm playing with guys that are such high-quality players -- I really can't put it into better words. We all have jobs out there, and I know that one of my roles is to make plays for the team, whether it's scoring or getting other guys the ball."
Even as a sophomore, Burke has stepped into a significant leadership role on the team, and his teammates have gladly followed in his footsteps.
"When your best player is also one of your hardest workers and everyone respects him, it comes naturally for him to be a leader," senior captain Josh Bartelstein remarked.
"We follow all the great things that he does on the court. It's huge to have your point guard be that unselfish. Trey could probably score 30 points every game if he wanted to, but he knows for us to be really good, he has to get everyone involved, and he's one of the best in the country at that."
Burke commented that the most important aspect of his game is getting his teammates involved. "That's my number one motto, to get guys going early and hit the open man," Burke said. "When you're surrounded by guys that can hit shots, and big men that can finish around the rim, 300 assists isn't as hard as it may be if you didn't have the type of players that we have."
Several of the Wolverines have benefited from Burke's unselfish play, including freshman shooting guard Glenn Robinson III, who finished with 13 points against the Wildcats.
"It's very important having him run the floor out there," Robinson commented. "He is a great leader and knows how to control the team. He just seems to find us in the right spot, at the right time -- the least we can do is make the shot for him."
In Michigan's previous win at home against Purdue (Jan. 24), Burke mentioned the importance of the Wolverines committing to the defensive aspect of their game. Holding Northwestern to just 21 points in the first half and 46 points total, Michigan's focus on defense over the past week showed once again tonight.
"Defense is what we focused on most importantly in practice," Robinson said. "That's what we wanted to go out there and do tonight, just execute our defense better."
"We did a good job defensively tonight," Burke commented. "Northwestern has one of the more complicated offenses in the Big Ten, and it's very hard to scout. I commend our scout team for getting us ready this whole week and preparing us for Northwestern's offense. That's the biggest thing for us each and every game, just getting the stops."
In the past three games, Burke has accumulated seven total steals while only turning the ball over once against Northwestern. Burke will lead the Wolverines into Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday (Feb. 2), as the Maize and Blue faces off against the No. 3 Indiana Hoosiers. With both teams at the top of the Big Ten, the Wolverines will rely of the leadership of their young point guard once again.
"This team is going to follow what he does, because we love him. It's a simple as that," said Bartelstein.