The Big 10 basketball game of the year lasted 10 minutes today. That's how long it look Michigan to demonstrate to Minnesota and the rest of the college hoops world that it still is a national championship contender.
When the Wolverines stumbled at Indian six days ago, even coach Hohn Orr was concerned. Today, after his club demolished Minnesota, 89-70, to take over the Big 10 lead again, Orr talked like a man courting the NCAA title.
"Sure I was amazed we won as easily," Orr said, "but I think we've proved that when we do things right, we can beat any team in America. And we did things right today."
Especially in those opening 10 minutes. Michigan came out running and gunning, hitting 11 of its first 18 shots, causing four Minnesota turnovers and playing a almost flawless defensive game.
Unlike some of their previous efforts, Michigan demonstrated patience today. The Wolverines played things. They waited for Minnesota to falter. And when the Gophers stumbled, Michigan s purted, taking a 32-20 lead with the first period just half completed.
Michigans dynamic duo of center Phil Hubbard and guard Rickey Green combined for 44 points (Hubbard had 28) with Hubbard also contributing 14 rebounds and Green nin assists.
It helped that Minnesota, showing the effects to playing seven games in 15 days, was lethargic, especially on defense.
The Gophers opened in a man-to-man instead of their usual 2-3 zone, but they could't keep us with Michigan's superior quickness. They were back in the more familiar zone by the middle of the half, but by then it was too late.
"We were awful tired," said Minnesota coach Jim Duthcer. "We played tired, they played well. I was hoping the man-to-man would get us moving, but it didn't."
Michigan, 20-3 overall and 12 in the Big 10, has beaten Minnesota (20-3, 11-3) twice in the last 10 days and has just one more tough conference game - at Purdue. The Wolverines lead both Purdue and Minnesota by a game in the loss column.
Orr said he thought his team played better in the two Minnesota games than in any other this season. Today's demonstration certainly left little for him to criticlze. His squad shot almost 54 per cent, outrebounded a much taller opponent, 38-34, and had four starter with at least 16 points.
Against such balance, Minnesota could counter only with 6-foot-10 center Mike Thompson, a soft-shooting pro prospect who dumped in 32 points, including 20 in the first half.
Michigan shut off Minnesota's other big gun, 6-3 forward Ray Williams, until the contest was out of reach.
The Wolverines also received more help than usual from some members of the supporting cast, such as 6-3 forward Tom Staton (16 points, seven rebound) and guard Steve Grote (16 points to six of 10 shooting).
"They are the quickest team we play, by far," said Dutcher, whose normally strongly defense club now has given up 175 points to Michigan in two games.
"You toss in eight or nine fast-break baskets a few tip-ins and they have 20 points right there where most teams don't get against us."
Which is what John Orr had said moments before.
"We aren't a normal team when we play like we did today," Orr said. "It's enjoyable to watch us when we play toour potential like this."