Auburn Hills — At least for the first half, it looked like it was déjà vu all over again.
For the second straight year, Michigan entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed and struggled early.
But unlike last year, when they fell to 13th-seeded Ohio, the Wolverines recovered from a lackluster first half and dispatched South Dakota State, 71-56, Thursday night in their NCAA Tournament opener at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Michigan (27-7) advanced to face the winner of the Akron-Virginia Commonwealth matchup in Saturday's round of 32.
"You don't want (the Ohio loss) to dwell with you but it would not be good to go in twice and lose in the first round — but it happens," coach John Beilein said. "There's all kinds of high seeds that are going to lose in the next two days. You just move on from it — we would have moved on but we didn't want it to happen."
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 12 of his 21 points in the first half, freshman Glenn Robinson III tied his career high with 21 and freshman Mitch McGary — a surprise starter — chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds.
Trey Burke, the Big Ten player of the year, scored just two points in the first half and finished with six points and seven assists; it's the first time this season that he didn't score in double figures.
"Everybody's going to have their bad game; I know I had my struggles from having bad games," Hardaway said. "(Burke) just did a great job staying mentally tough and finding guys who had the hot hand."
Despite his 2-for-12 night, Burke was able to get his teammates to pick up the slack on offense, behind Hardaway and Robinson.
"We had some guys step up today that we're very proud of and we look forward to practicing tomorrow and playing (on Saturday)," Beilein said.
McGary made the most of his start, his third of the season, scoring U-M's first five points. The Wolverines looked to roll early after Robinson's tip made it a five-point lead, but SDSU went on an 11-0 run over the next 6:20 before Hardaway ended the drought with a 3-pointer.
Two possessions later, Hardaway hit another 3-pointer, igniting an 11-0 spurt and pushing the lead to 21-16. U-M added the next six points and took its largest lead of the half, 27-19, after Burke's two free throws — his first points of the game — with 2:48 left.
"I knew that my shot wasn't falling and I just tried to contribute in different ways. We had different hot hands tonight: Tim, Nik, Glenn, Mitch," Burke said. "As a point guard, it's my job to go to those guys so we have success on the offensive end."
South Dakota State (25-10) rallied, as Brayden Carlson (20 points) hit a jumper with four seconds left that just beat the shot clock and cut the deficit to 30-26 at halftime.
Robinson got a hot shooting touch in the second half, hitting the Wolverines' first 11 points, and stretching the lead to 41-30. Nate Wolters hit a pair of free throws and added a basket but Hardaway answered with a basket.
Wolters, the Jackrabbits' leading scorer at 22.7 points, finished with 10 points, five rebounds and six assists.
"Having Tim being able to create his own shot, being able to find Glenn … and others found Glenn; Nik (Stauskas) found Glenn," Beilein said. "That's important for us. Those three were really big today on the perimeter and now you put Mitch McGary and he gave us so much life."
Michigan got a scare when Burke fell to the floor while going for a rebound at the 11:51 mark. He rolled on the court in pain and was examined in the locker room but returned to the game.
"I hit my back and my elbow and a piece of my head, but I'm fine," Burke said. "My elbow's just a little sore, and my tailbone is a little sore, but besides that, I'm fine."
The Wolverines pulled away when Stauskas converted a three-point play, and Hardaway added a jumper and a 3-pointer to make it 57-43.
U-M cruised from there, running its lead to 17.
Michigan forward Mitch McGary and South Dakota State forward Jordan Dykstra do first-half battle. / Robin Buckson / Detroit News
- MSU's Derrick Nix has some unfinished business
- Duke, North Carolina come calling, but Michigan wows five-star guard Devin Booker
- Michigan players realize the time is now
- Michigan, MSU can make a run to Atlanta — but so can many others
- If Glenn Robinson, Branden Dawson step up, watch out for MSU, U-M
- Photos: Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56
- Box score: Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56