Tim Hardaway Jr. scores 26 points in Michigan's Big Ten-opening win against Penn State
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Updated 10:23 p.m.
So much for a slow start.
It took the Michigan basketball team roughly 10 minutes to exert its will against Penn State on Thursday, and from there, it never looked back.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a season-high 26 points, including a personal run of 10 straight at one point, and the No. 18 Wolverines ran their winning streak to to six games with a 71-53 win over visiting Penn State in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
"I was apprehensive before this game just to see how we were going to respond when we were playing within our conference," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I was pleased with how we responded."
The win was Michigan's first conference-opening victory since the 2006-07 season, and the first of Beilein's Michigan career.
Michigan (11-2, 1-0) is off on the right foot in league play after beginning the 2010-11 campaign with a 1-6 Big Ten mark.
"It was fun," Michigan senior guard Zack Novak said. "We had a lot of guys that were in the zone at different times tonight."
Hardaway was in the zone for most of the evening.
After missing a pair of deep 3-pointers in the game's opening minutes, Hardaway made a more concerted effort to get to the basket. The change paid off for Michigan.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore finished 11-for-18 from the field to pace the Wolverines, going 10-for-11 from inside the 3-point line and finishing four points shy of his career-high.
"I was just ball-faking and they were going for it," said Hardaway, who added three rebounds and two assists. "I was just getting into the paint like (Michigan assistant coach Laval Jordan) tells us.
"I was just making plays for my team."
Sophomore Evan Smotrycz recorded his third consecutive double-double, finishing his night with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman point guard Trey Burke, once a Penn State commit, tallied 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds as Michigan went 25-for-54 as a team from the floor.
Penn State (8-6, 0-1) was paced by leading scorer Tim Frazier, who went for 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting. As a team, the Nittany Lions shot 39.6 percent with 13 turnovers.
The Wolverines began to stretch their legs midway through the first half, when a pair of 3-pointers from Smotrycz and Stu Douglass sparked an 8-0 spurt to put Michigan up 23-13 with 8:49 to play in the half.
Penn State inched within six three minutes later, but the Wolverines would go into the locker rooms happy, closing the half on a 13-5 run, highlighted by a two-handed dunk and a fast-break layup from Hardaway -- making it 36-22 Michigan at the break.
The second half featured more of the same, with Hardaway continuing his dominance inside, rattling off six straight points before a Jordan Morgan slam pushed the lead to 20 points with 17 minutes to play.
Michigan's lead would grow to as many as 22 before the Wolverines settled for the 18-point victory.
"They're ranked for a reason," first-year Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said afterward. "When you stop (Hardaway), you've got Novak. When you stop him, you've got Evan. And then there's Trey Burke.
"They've got a lot of different options. It's difficult."
For the fourth-straight game, Michigan was without sophomore forward Jon Horford, who again sat out with a broken bone in his right foot.
While one current Wolverine big man was out of action, a future Michigan forward took in the game from the stands. Mitch McGary, a 2012 commit, was on hand at Crisler Center.
The Wolverines return to the floor Sunday when they play host to Minnesota (4 p.m., BTN).
"It's always important to win home games in this league, because it's always difficult to win on the road," Beilein said. "We're still a huge work in progress and there's a lot of evolution going on there, but I do like the direction that we're going."
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