EVANSTON – No matter how many wins Michigan piles up, Trey Burke insisted one thing will not change. The Wolverines will keep seeing themselves as underdogs, even after nights like this.
Burke scored 23 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 21 and No. 2 Michigan pounded Northwestern, 94-66, on Thursday to remain unbeaten.
Off to their best start since they opened the 1985-86 season with 16 wins, the Wolverines (14-0) had no trouble in the Big Ten opener for both teams after breezing through the nonconference portion of their schedule.
They built a 21-point halftime lead with Burke and Hardaway Jr. leading the way and were never challenged by Northwestern (9-5).
"14-0 that's a great start – and 1-0 in the Big Ten – but we've got to keep the attitude where guys are still doubting us," Burke said.
He'll get no argument from his coach.
"We're always working that way, like we're hunting all the time and we don't ever want to lose that," John Beilein said. "It's not a negative to always be working."
Jared Swopshire and Kale Abrahamson each scored 11 points for Northwestern, but the Wildcats gave up the most points they have allowed this season while being outclassed by one of the nation's best teams.
"Eventually, we've got to start doing things that the coaches get on us about," guard Dave Sobolewski said. "We keep messing up the same things in the 1-3-1. We keep missing assignments. We keep falling asleep on defense. A lot of it will come down to heart and how bad we want it on defense mainly, too."
It was a sharp contrast from their two meetings last season, when Michigan needed overtime to win both games.
Then again, the Wildcats were short-handed.
Besides suspending guard JerShon Cobb for the season for violating team policy, they also shut down one of their best players, Drew Crawford, for the remainder of the season last month because of a shoulder injury.
Leading scorer Reggie Hearn sat out his second straight game because of a sprained ankle.
Michigan shot 59.6 percent overall and made 13 of 22 3-point attempts with the two guards doing most of the damage. Burke shot 9 of 16 overall and hit 4 of 6 3-pointers. Hardaway was 6 of 8 from the field and 4 of 5 from long range, and the ankle injury that kept him out of the previous game didn't seem to be an issue.
"Just to see him back out there after his injury," Burke said. "Back in action. Back in the groove. It was great."
Jordan Morgan added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Wolverines, while Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas scored 10 points apiece.
Even so, Michigan wasn't showing any mercy. Instead, the Wolverines ended the suspense early.
Burke, averaging a team-leading 17.8 points coming in, scored 15 in the first half. Hardaway added 12 points, hitting all four 3s, and Michigan barely broke a sweat before taking a 51-30 halftime lead.
"I guess that's what happens when you're running the fastbreaks and getting easy baskets. It all comes off of defensive stops," Hardaway said.
Burke did his best to bury Northwestern almost as soon as the game started.
The sophomore guard scored 13 straight points for Michigan to help the Wolverines grab a 20-4 lead.
"He's got a presence out there," Beilein said. "He's got a great ability to know when he can score and when he can find other people."
Hardaway got going midway through the half, making consecutive 3-pointers that made it 33-13 and drew an "M Go Blue! M Go Blue!" chant from the maize-and-blue contingent in the stands.
He struck again from the outside on consecutive possessions later in the half. And Burke wowed the crowd in the closing minutes when he laid the ball in after a nasty crossover.
For Northwestern fans, there was little to cheer in the early going other than when football coach Pat Fitzgerald addressed the crowd on the heels of his team's Gator Bowl victory.
"Coach told us to be aggressive," Burke said. "Don't be timid against the zone. Attack it so you can get good shots."