AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Turns out VCU was the team that should have been worried about this NCAA tournament matchup.
Havoc is heading home after Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and cool-headed Michigan breezed through VCU's vaunted pressure.
"They have a lot of players and a lot of good ball handlers," Rams coach Shaka Smart said. "They were able to, when they did break the press, really make us pay, and I'm sure that was their game plan."
Mitch McGary had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and the fourth-seeded Wolverines beat the fifth-seeded Rams 78-53 on Saturday to advance to the NCAA round of 16 for the first time since 1994.
With its relentless press, VCU was supposed to be a matchup nightmare for so many teams in this tournament — and Michigan had little time to prepare. But the Wolverines had no trouble.
"This is a very high-IQ team that can pick up things very quickly," Wolverines coach John Beilein said. "Everybody that played in the game, even the guys that did not play, just responded beautifully in the way we want Michigan to respond in these situations."
VCU (27-9) routed Akron by 46 points Thursday night, but the Rams met their match against Michigan's backcourt. Burke and Hardaway rarely looked rattled. Michigan (28-7) committed only 12 turnovers, and the Rams couldn't turn many of them into quick scoring opportunities.
VCU went 0-8 this season when forcing under 15 turnovers.
"Certainly in retrospect it wasn't a very good matchup," Smart said. "The credit for that goes to Michigan. I don't think that we, for whatever reason, had great bounce today and energy. Our guys tried. They always do, but I think what Michigan was able to do to us early on and us missing some easy shots around the basket and maybe some outside looks we'd normally make, that may have contributed to our spirit not being quite where it needed to be."
McGary, a 6-foot-10 freshman, set season highs in scoring and rebounding. When the Rams couldn't create easy baskets with their pressure defense — they call it "Havoc" — they were finished.
The 71-point swing by VCU — from a 46-point win to a 25-point loss — was the largest in NCAA tournament history, according to STATS. In 1968, Houston beat Texas Christian 103-68, then lost to UCLA 101-69 for a 67-point swing.
McGary made his first seven shots from the field. Burke scored 18 points, and Hardaway and Glenn Robinson III added 14 each.
Juvonte Reddic scored 16 points for VCU, but the Wolverines had 12 offensive rebounds, and the Rams had no answer for McGary.
"He just outworked me tonight," Reddic said. "I expected him to be physical like he was tonight."
Michigan led 38-23 at halftime. Burke turned the ball over five times in the first 5:51 of the second half, but even then the Rams couldn't rally.
A dunk and a layup by McGary had VCU calling timeout with the score 49-33 — and then Michigan found a bit of a groove from beyond the arc.
Spike Albrecht made a 3-pointer and found Robinson with a slick pass for a dunk in transition. A 3-pointer by Burke made it 57-35.
Hardaway hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 23 and added an acrobatic reverse dunk to make it 64-38.
The Rams entered the day forcing an average of 19.9 turnovers, the most in the nation. Michigan was only committing 9.2 per game, the fewest in the country.
It was strength against strength, and the Wolverines won easily. They started by letting Hardaway bring the ball up while VCU denied Burke. Occasionally, Burke would have enough space to dribble up the court himself, and Michigan also picked the press apart at times with smart passing.
The Rams didn't help themselves by shooting 30 percent from the field in the first half. It's harder for VCU to set up its press when the Rams aren't scoring.
Michigan was only 3 of 12 from 3-point range before halftime, but the Wolverines still opened a sizeable margin. A 3-pointer by Hardaway put Michigan ahead 30-19, and Burke made it a 15-point game when he hit from the perimeter after McGary flattened Briante Weber with a pick.
Burke drove toward the basket and lobbed to Robinson for an alley-oop dunk that made it 38-21.
"When we've been at our best, we've been able to press people, and even when they do break the press, we've been able to get matched up and make them run their half-court offense," Smart said. "We did that at times tonight, but way too often Burke was able to get in the lane, other guys were able to get in the lane."