By NOAH TRISTER/AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR (AP) – Trey Burke went the entire first half without scoring – and may have still been the best player on the court.
The Michigan guard was setting up his teammates, and by the time Burke made a few shots of his own, the Wolverines were well on their way to another impressive victory.
Burke finished with 18 points and a career-high 11 assists without a turnover, and No. 3 Michigan held off a late rally by No. 18 North Carolina State in a 79-72 win Tuesday night.
Freshman Nik Stauskas led the Wolverines with 20 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 16, but it was Burke who controlled the game, equaling his previous career high of nine assists in the first half.
“I thought his pace tonight was terrific,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He’s got to trust the guys around him, and he does.”
N.C. State (4-2) trailed 73-58 before going on a 10-0 run capped by T.J. Warren’s layup with 2:11 remaining. Hardaway answered with a driving bank shot.
It was 75-70 when the Wolfpack forced a turnover and called a timeout with 54.4 seconds to play, but C.J. Leslie was called for an offensive foul.
Leslie appeared to swing his left arm a bit while backing down against Michigan’s Mitch McGary. N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried looked incensed by the call on the sideline.
Warren led the Wolfpack with 18 points.
N.C. State would have been happy to run up and down the court with Michigan, but all too often, the Wolfpack were forced into a halfcourt game. The Wolverines (6-0) committed only six turnovers – four in the first half.
N.C. State shot 57 percent from the field but lost its fifth straight game in the ACC-Big Ten challenge.
“If that’s the third-best team in the country, and I believe they are, then we’re getting pretty close,” said Gottfried, whose team was picked to win the ACC. “We’re not a great team yet, but we can get there if we can improve.”
Michigan led 45-40 after Leslie’s twisting dunk early in the second half. The Wolverines answered with an alley-oop pass to Glenn Robinson III, whose dunk popped out of the basket momentarily before dropping back in.
That play gave Burke his 10th assist – the first time he reached that mark.
“Though I didn’t have any points, I knew that it was important to get guys going early,” Burke said. “What was there was getting deep into the paint and kicking out.”
Burke started scoring more in the second half, and Michigan methodically built its lead into double digits. It was 62-48 after Stauskas made a 3-pointer from the right wing.
“I’ve always been confident in my shot, no matter where I’ve been,” Stauskas said. “I’ve been working on it in my backyard for my whole life. I felt good about all of them tonight.”
It was 73-58 before N.C. State made a game of it down the stretch. Warren scored on a 3-on-1 break to make it 73-68. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw that would have cut the deficit to four.
Michigan has committed 10 or fewer turnovers in five of its six games this season.
Before the game, Michigan raised a banner commemorating its 2012 Big Ten regular-season title – the program’s first since 1986. The Wolverines look even more dangerous so far this season, especially when they’re moving the ball well and making outside shots.
Stauskas made his first four shots – three from 3-point range – as part of a 13-point first half. One of Stauskas’ 3-pointers gave Michigan a 30-16 lead, but the Wolfpack went on a 7-0 run to get back in the game.
N.C. State shot 60 percent in the first half but trailed 43-36 at halftime after Burke drove to the basket and made a nice pass to Robinson for a layup in the waning seconds.
Stauskas went 4 of 7 from 3-point range in the game and is 14 of 24 on the season.
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