IOWA CITY — Nik Stauskas made it easy to label him as a 3-point specialist based on his homemade videos and perimeter prowess last year as a Michigan freshman.
In a YouTube clip boasting more than 400,000 views, Stauskas hit an incredible 70 of 76 3-point shots in five minutes at his home in Ontario. In the rain.
Two months into his sophomore season, Stauskas shows he can still light it up. He’s sank 44 percent of his 3-point attempts and his range is otherworldly. But now he can showcase the rest of his game, and the results are striking for Stauskas and the No. 21/25 Wolverines (13-4, 5-0), who take on No. 10 Iowa (15-3, 4-1) at 6 p.m. Wednesday (BTN).
Stauskas leads the Big Ten in scoring at 18 points a game. Last week he averaged 22 points, five rebounds and 4.5 assists to pace to pick up Big Ten Player of the Week honors. In one of the season’s most impressive performances at No. 3 Wisconsin, Stauskas scored 23 points, including the Wolverines’ final 11. He added four assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Against Penn State he scored 21 with six rebounds, five assists and no turnovers.
He’s still dangerous from 3-point range as the numbers indicate. But his all-around game has impressed Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery.
“He shoots it off the dribble. He’s not a catch-and-shoot (guy),” McCaffery said. “He’s not standstill from that range that you’re talking about. He can hit a step-back 3, he can hit off a double crossover. If you don’t find him in transition, it’s almost automatic. But when you run at him, he can put it on the deck.
“He made a play in the Wisconsin game where he drove it, and kicked it. It was a really, really good play. You’d think he definitely was going to shoot the ball in this situation and the next thing you know he’s got an assist. That’s the way the great ones play.”
Stauskas blitzed Iowa for 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in last year’s 95-67 win in Ann Arbor. In a pivotal stretch late in the first half, he ignited the Wolverines with a 3-pointer to extend a two-point lead to five. He added a dunk and a layup early in the second half to pace Michigan to a 20-5 run.
But that was a different Michigan team, one that advanced to the NCAA championship game. Stauskas was a complementary player as national player of the year Trey Burke and fellow guard Tim Hardaway Jr. guided the offense. With both players in the NBA and sophomore center Mitch McGary out after back surgery, Stauskas has become the team’s playmaker.
He has a team-high 60 assists to only 24 turnovers, ranking second behind Iowa’s Mike Gesell in assist-to-turnover ratio. He ranks third in both 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made. He tied a league-high (along with teammates Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert) with six against Houston Baptist. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten with 8.5 3-pointers a game and shoot them at a 38.8 percent clip, second-best in the league.
“He has been impressive because, let’s say last year was Trey Burke’s team,” McCaffery said. “You can say it was Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway’s team. Both of those guys were so good for the time that they were there that I think for Stauskas, he had a chance to experience that. … Stauskas is the guy that said, ‘Look I watched as those guys led, I watched them make plays in crunchtime, I can do that.’
“I didn’t see him strictly as a shooter last year. Obviously his role was different but he’s athletic, he’s got a great handle, he can go off the dribble, he can move without the ball, and he’s a gamer. I just think he’s doing more of it this year.”
Michigan Coach John Beilein credits an intense weightlifting regimen and improvements on defense for shaping Stauskas into an improved all-around player. Beilein also has given Stauskas the freedom to hit any shot on the floor whenever he wants. Almost.
“I guess it would be a green light as I see a green light should be,” Beilein said. “We do want him to be aggressive.”
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