LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

ANN ARBOR (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Given a favorable schedule, Michigan is taking advantage.

The Wolverines began the Big Ten slate with one of the easiest four-game stretches in the conference and now has swept all four after tonight's 80-67 win over Penn State at Crisler Center.

Coupled with Wisconsin's upset loss at Indiana, it placed the Wolverines (12-4) in a first-place tie atop the league standings with Michigan State at 4-0.

It's also a significant mark as, after last year's team broke program droughts seemingly week after week, this one got its notch as the first at U-M to start 4-0 in league play since the 2003.

Back then, John Beilein was just starting at West Virginia and Tommy Amaker was just starting at Michigan and current U-M point guard Derrick Walton Jr. was just midway through elementary school.

Fortunately for the Wolverines, Walton and his teammates have grown up a little bit, putting on an impressive show at Crisler.

They were threatened by the Nittany Lions a few times, late in the first half and early in the second, but when they got into a game of trading baskets, Michigan has too many weapons.

Walton started fast, scoring 12 of his career-high 16, in the first half. And his teammates joined the party in the second.

Nik Stauskas finished with 21 points, Glenn Robinson III 15 and Jon Horford 11.

For all the Wolverines' defensive deficiencies - Penn State started the second half by hitting 7 of 10 shots to close to 43-41 with 17 minutes to play - Michigan knew it could turn on the juice when necessary.

After the Nittany Lions threatened, Michigan ripped off a 17-4 run to take control of the game, shooting 58% in the second half.

As this team usually does, it came with balance as four different players scored with Stauskas twice from the outside and Hoford with a close baseline jumper, Caris LeVert with a fast break and-one layup and a Robinson alley-oop.

With the lead back to 15, Michigan finally was comfortable again, despite struggling on defense.

The first half was another example of unrestrained excess as both teams shot 50% or above as Michigan held a 40-33 halftime lead.

The point guard battle started with Walton scoring the game's first eight points, on his way to 12 by halftime. Just as he got started spreading the ball around, Penn State's Tim Frazier started bringing his team back with 11 by the break.

The Wolverines had pushed their lead to 13 points just a minute and a half before halftime.

Then Penn State ripped off a 10-0 run over the end of the half and the start of the second, reminding the Wolverines that they would have to play the second half.

Contact Mark Snyder: msnyder@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter@mark__snyder.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE