ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team began Big Ten Conference play with a 78-54 win over the Northwestern Wildcats Wednesday evening (Jan. 7) at Crisler Arena. The game was highlighted by a near-perfect performance by sophomore Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS), who set a career-high point total with 27, going 7-for-8 from the floor and 10-for-10 from the free throw line. Senior Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washington D.C./New Hampton Prep, N.H.) also had a key role in the contest, putting up 18 points and handing off seven assists.
Abram missed just one shot on the way to setting a career scoring high with 27 points.
The Wolverines brought a stellar first-half performance to the court, highlighted by perfect shooting from Abram along with a great showing by Robinson. The pair accounted for 31 of Michigan's 45 points, with Abram going 5-for-5 including three triples along with 6-for-6 from the line in 18 minutes of play. Robinson dominated on the floor, dishing out five assists to go along with his 12-point performance.
After getting off to a cold start with the two teams going back and forth in scoring for the first four minutes of play, Robinson was able to turn up the heat. After hitting a jumper to take the score to an 11-8 Michigan lead, he stole the ball from Northwestern and drove it to the hole for a quick two points.
Northwestern managed to stay within close range of Michigan until a 10-2 run by the Wolverines put them at a 23-12 deficit with 11:26 remaining in the half. The Wildcats came back with a three-pointer by guard Evan Seacat to take the score to a 23-16 Michigan lead, but a basket plus a bonus by Abram countered the move.
The Wolverines then went on another tear, outscoring Northwestern 9-2 in just under three minutes. Robinson continued to shine, sinking another jumper to give Michigan a 30-19 lead. Sophomore center Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS) put in two points at the line and Abram kept hitting his mark, scoring two plus the bonus to give the Wolverines a 33-20 lead with 6:53 remaining in the half.
For the remainder of the first half, the Wolverines continued to dominate the Wildcats, outscoring them 10-4. Freshman guard Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) hit back-to-back shots including a triple to put Michigan ahead 40-24 and Abram followed up with a three-pointer of his own. As the time ticked down, Robinson capped off the Wolverine half with a jumper to take his team to the locker room with a 45-26 lead.
Abram continued his perfection into the second half, sinking two and going 2-2 from the line within the first four minutes of play. Northwestern was not about to roll over, however, putting up two triples and three from the line to keep the score at a 51-33 Michigan lead.
Robinson kept making things happen, putting up six straight points for the Wolverines throughout a three-minute span. After converting a breakaway steal into a slam, he put a rebound back up for two, and took a feed from sophomore guard Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) to move the score to a 57-41 Michigan lead with 11:20 remaining.
Northwestern was able to remain in the game thanks to a key performance by Wildcat guard Jitim Young, who went 6-7 at the line along with a two-point basket to put his team within 13. The Wolverines stood their ground, however, holding Northwestern to just 10 points for the remaining 11 minutes of the contest.
Senior/junior forward J.C. Mathis (Brooklyn, N.Y./John F. Kennedy HS) was a key factor in holding the Wildcats in the second half, scoring all of his seven points in the final six minutes of play. After connecting for two plus the bonus, Mathis followed up with a slam and another field goal to put Michigan ahead 72-52 with 3:17 remaining.
After Abram added two from the line to make the score 74-52 Wolverines, he was unable to maintain his perfect shooting percentage, missing a three-point field goal to leave him 7-8 from the field and 10-10 from the line. With the Wolverines ahead by 20 with 1:22 left to play, head coach Tommy Amaker brought in the reserves.
Senior Colin Dill (Saginaw, Mich./Birmingham Country Day), junior/sophomore Dani Wohl (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield HS), sophomore Sherrod Harrell (Kalamazoo, Mich./Central HS), sophomore/freshman Amadou Ba (Mauritania, Africa/Bridgton Academy, Maine) and freshman Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) entered the game.
Petway dazzled the crowd with an electrifying dunk to bring fans to their feet for the final minute of play. The game was capped off by Wohl, who drove to the basket for a fall-away layup to make the final score 78-54 in favor of the Wolverines.
The Wolverines will continue the conference season with a matchup against Indiana Sunday (Jan. 11) at Crisler Arena. The CBS broadcast is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. start. The game against the Hoosiers will be highlighted with the honoring of former U-M All-American Phil Hubbard, whose jersey will be raised to Crisler's rafters to join those of Cazzie Russell and Rudy Tomjanovich.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423