ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team stayed undefeated in Big Ten conference play with a 71-61 victory over Northwestern Wednesday night (Jan. 12) in front of 10,449 fans at Crisler Arena. The Wolverines (11-5, 2-0 Big Ten) never trailed in the game, extending their lead to a game-high 10 points towards the end of the first half before the Wildcats (8-7, 1-2 Big Ten) fought their way back to within three points with five minutes to play. However, the U-M defense did not allow a single Northwestern field goal the rest of the way to seal Michigan's fifth straight win.
Junior Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) scored a season-high 24 points, including his 1,000th career point in the final minute of the game, to lead the Wolverines to victory. Sophomores Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) and Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) netted 17 points apiece, combining for 22 points in the first half. Junior Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS) returned to the lineup after recovering from hernia surgery, collecting five rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
The Wolverines found themselves with a 7-1 lead after the first four minutes of action, highlighted by a pair of three pointers from freshman Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) and Horton. Northwestern did not record its first field goal until 15:16, as Vedran Vukusic scored two of his team-high 22 points to cut the U-M lead to four. Michigan was able to extend its lead to 14-7 after Harris connected on his first triple and Sims scored his first four points of the game.
The Wildcats responded with a 9-2 run over the next four minutes to tie the contest at 16-16 at 9:46. Back-to-back jumpers by Horton and Harris vaulted U-M back into a four-point lead, but Northwestern came right back and scored four unanswered points to knot the score at 20-20 with 6:53 left in the first half.
Michigan jumped out to a quick 31-22 lead thanks to an 11-2 run over a span of three minutes, with Sims and Harris combining for all of U-M's points during the outburst. The Wildcats were able to trim the lead down to 31-26 at the break after two unanswered buckets in final two minutes of the half.
Sims and Harris accounted for all but nine of Michigan's points in the first half, each finishing with 11 points. The Wolverines finished the first 20 minutes shooting 58 percent from the field (11-of-19), including five-of-seven from three-point range.
U-M opened the second half with a 7-2 run in the first two minutes, including five points from Horton, which pushed the lead up to 38-28. Northwestern answered right back with a 9-0 run over a two-minute span to move within one point, 38-37, with 16:03 to play in the game.
Sims ended a three-minute Wolverine scoring drought with a basket at 15:34, and Coleman followed with his second triple to put Michigan ahead 43-39. U-M worked the ball down low and relied on its free throw shooting to extend the lead, with Sims and senior/junior J.C. Mathis (Brooklyn, N.Y./John F. Kennedy HS) combining for three points from the stripe to keep the lead at 46-39 with 13:32 left on the clock.
The Wolverines were able to sustain a 52-49 advantage despite three Northwestern triples over a two-minute span. Horton continued his impressive play in the second half, scoring six of Michigan's next nine points to keep his team in front 61-53 with 6:51 to go.
U-M went without a point for nearly four minutes, as Northwestern clawed its way back to within three points, 61-58, with 5:32 left in the game. Harris' short jumper at 3:14 broke the dry spell and increased the lead to five points, and Michigan went on to score four more unanswered points to take a 67-58 advantage with 1:52 remaining.
The Wolverines put the game out of reach from the line, as Horton sank four straight free throws to push the lead to 10 points. Northwestern was held without a field goal for the last 5:32 of the contest, scoring just three points from the charity stripe during the span.
Michigan will look to stay perfect in Big Ten play when it faces Penn State in State College, Pa., this Saturday (Jan. 15). Tip-off is scheduled for 12:17 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN-Regional.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423