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
"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
"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
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
"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
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.
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.