ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With 12:01 remaining in the first half, Western Michigan trailed third-ranked Michigan by only a point.
The Broncos may have already wasted their best chance to make a game of it.
Instead of racing out to a surprising lead, Western Michigan turned the ball over too much early on, allowing the Wolverines time to settle in. Michigan's superior talent became obvious after that. Trey Burke finished with 20 points and seven assists, and the Wolverines eventually pulled away for a 73-41 victory Tuesday night.
"When we did execute, I felt like we could stay right there with these guys," Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said. "But you're probably talking about doing that at a 30 percent, 40 percent rate against a team like this. Hopefully by the end of the year, we're able to execute at an 80-to-90 percent rate."
The Wolverines (8-0) had actually lost their previous two games against the Broncos, but that was more than a decade ago. Western Michigan (6-2) had won six straight coming into this game, including a victory over South Florida, but the Broncos turned the ball over 13 times in the first half.
Nik Stauskas scored 11 points for Michigan, and fellow freshman Mitch McGary added 10 on 5-of-5 shooting.
"If you looked at our faces in the first 10 minutes, we did not predict that outcome," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Our guys picked up the pressure a little bit, we did a few other things — had to feed off our defense, because our offense, we missed some shots."
Freshman Darius Paul had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Western Michigan.
The Wolverines weren't all that sharp offensively, especially early, but Western Michigan couldn't take advantage. The Broncos committed several fouls at the offensive end in the first half, and Michigan led 25-15 after a layup by Glenn Robinson III. Jordan Morgan pushed the lead to a dozen with a layup of his own, and it was 35-21 at halftime.
"I felt like if we really executed well, that we had a chance to take this thing into the last four or five minutes — and then let's see what happens," Hawkins said. "You knew you were letting a little bit slip away."
The Wolverines put the game away early in the second half. Stauskas made a 3-pointer to make it 45-28, and Robinson and Burke added old-fashioned three-point plays to make it a 23-point game.
It was 51-34 before Michigan padded the margin with a 22-2 run. A 3-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr. made it 66-36, and Burke connected moments later from beyond the arc.
For much of the night, Michigan threatened its worst shooting percentage of the season, but the Wolverines actually ended up right at 50 percent. It was the Broncos who really went through a nightmare at the offensive end, shooting 29 percent from the field, going 2 of 17 from 3-point range and finishing with 18 turnovers.
Michigan was coming off a bit of a test last weekend, when the Wolverines won 74-66 at Bradley. They'll face another interesting nonconference matchup when Arkansas visits Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Paul was the only Western Michigan player in double figures, and he shot 3 of 12. The Broncos' winning streak might have been a bit deceptive, with the last three victories coming by a combined 10 points.
"Some of our talent was able to take over a game when we didn't have anything," Hawkins said. "Tonight, when things broke down or when execution wasn't there, our talent was not going to take over the game. They just have better players."