8:00 PM ET, January 21, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Pursuing a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years, the Michigan Wolverines have put themselves in good position to end that Big Dance drought.Daniel Horton scored a career-high 32 points, including six 3-pointers, to spark Michigan in a 71-55 victory over slumping Minnesota on Saturday night.Dion Harris added 16 points, 13 in the second half, to help the Wolverines (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) close out a satisfying week. After beating Northwestern by 17 points, they won at Williams Arena for the first time since 1993 and shifted their focus to Wednesday's matchup against rival Michigan State, the 11th-ranked team in the latest Associated Press poll."I thought it was a critical week for our program," said coach Tommy Amaker, whose team faded amid injuries and finished 13-18 last season after the winning the NIT championship in 2004. "We felt that this was going to be a good time for our veterans and seniors to be able to step forward and lead our ballclub."That's exactly what hasn't happened for the Gophers (9-7, 0-5), whose all-senior backcourt of Adam Boone, Vince Grier and Moe Hargrow has never been in sync.Zone defenses, like the one used often by the Wolverines in this game, have taken Grier completely out of his rhythm. His 17.9-point average was third in the conference last year, but the 6-foot-5 slasher has looked lost against zones and Minnesota's offense has suffered. Grier had a career-low four points on 1-for-8 shooting."He's got to get more confident in what he's doing and what we're doing," said coach Dan Monson, who blamed himself for many of the problems. "He looked more frustrated tonight than I've ever seen him."Moe Hargrow had 16 points, Spencer Tollackson scored 13 points, and J'son Stamper had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Gophers, who committed 19 turnovers and shot only 38 percent from the field."Our confidence is good, man," Hargrow insisted. "We just need to make plays."Monson used the word "unacceptable" multiple times in his postgame comments to the media, and both he and his players believed any on-the-court unity this team had left dissolved down the stretch."It just seemed like we splintered and some of the guys went different ways," Tollackson said.Added Hargrow: "It felt empty here, the last couple of minutes."Streaky Courtney Sims, who was averaging 14 points per game, was held scoreless and another starter, Lester Abram, left early in the second half with a sprained left ankle, the severity of which was unknown to Amaker. But Horton and Harris did enough damage by themselves to keep the Wolverines from ever worrying about the outcome."I know my team is looking for me, and it was about time for me to get it going offensively," Harris said. "I started being aggressive."With four seniors among their top eight returners, the Gophers were in position to at least stay competitive in the Big Ten -- coming off a 21-11 record and their only NCAA tournament invitation in Monson's seven seasons. But an ugly defeat at home to Northwestern started their conference schedule off on a sour note, and then came a 17-point loss at lowly Purdue sandwiched between narrow defeats to ranked teams Wisconsin and Iowa.After a timeout to quell a 14-2 Michigan run early in the second half, Hargrow swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key to get the Gophers within 42-29. But Horton immediately answered with a 3-pointer of his own on the other end to bump the lead back to 16.Brent Petway, a junior with a vertical jump of nearly 42 inches, according to the Wolverines, caught an alley-oop from Jerret Smith a little later to give his team its biggest advantage, 47-30.Minnesota wiggled its way back into the game and came within seven, 51-44, but Grier rushed an awkward-looking 3-pointer that bounced hard off the backboard and Michigan slowly stretched the lead back to double digits. A little later, Harris made a 3-pointer, the Gophers quickly turned the ball over and suddenly Horton was racing the other way for a finger-roll layup off the glass to put the Wolverines up 64-48.With a roster filled with upperclassmen for the first time in Amaker's tenure, Michigan is playing with savvy and poise."For us seniors, it feels good to get this one -- and it's big for our conference hopes," Horton said.
|FG Made-Attempted||25-53 (.472)||21-55 (.382)|
|3P Made-Attempted||9-21 (.429)||3-18 (.167)|
|FT Made-Attempted||12-12 (1.000)||10-17 (.588)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||16 (0/0)|