Wolverines Let One Slip Away Against Golden Gophers

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Despite five players scoring in double figures, the University of Michigan men's basketball team suffered an 81-78 road loss to Minnesota, Wednesday night (Feb. 11) at Williams Arena. The Wolverines brought a solid performance, but were knocked backwards in the second half after foul trouble and hot shooting by the Golden Gophers helped Minnesota comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit to pull out a three-point win and snap an eight-game losing streak and to pick up their first conference win on the season. The Wolverines had a last second opportunity to tie the game, but freshman Dion Harris' (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) three-pointer fell just short as time expired.

Senior Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washington, D.C./New Hampton Prep [N.H.]) had a commanding performance, but foul trouble cost him, as he was DQ with six minutes remaining in the contest. He finished with 14 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and block. Sophomores Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS) and Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS), who each finished with 15 points, helped the Maize-and-Blue to stay within striking range throughout the second half. Freshmen Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) had 12 points and three rebounds while Harris gave the Wolverines five players in double-figures with his 11 point performance.
The Wolverines (13-7, 4-5 Big Ten) won the opening tip and worked the ball inside to Sims, who knocked down a short jumper to put U-M on the board. Minnesota (9-13; 1-9 Big Ten) responded with seven unanswered points over the next two minutes to take a 7-2 lead at 17:19. Robinson broke a three-minute scoring drought with his first basket, and Abram followed with a triple to keep the Wolverines within two points, 9-7, with just over 16 minutes to play in the half.

With the Gophers holding an 11-7 advantage, Horton came out of the first media timeout and scored five straight points, allowing U-M to take its first lead, 12-11, with 14:10 left in the half. A Horton free throw would be Michigan's only point for nearly four minutes, as Minnesota went on a 7-1 run to regain an 18-13 lead.

Abram ended Michigan's dry spell with six straight points of his own, including his second triple, as U-M went back on top 19-18 with 9:13 left until the break. Michigan was able to keep a slim three-point lead thanks to a pair of free throws from Harris and another triple from Horton, but Minnesota reeled off five straight points to go ahead by two points, 26-24.

Michigan stormed out to a 38-26 lead thanks to a 14-0 run over the next two minutes. Robinson accounted for half of the Wolverines' points during the spurt, while freshman Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) earned his first bucket off a high-rising slam. Jeff Hagen got the Gophers back on track with a jumper to cut the lead to 10 points, but Harris came down and hit his first triple to put U-M ahead 41-28 with 2:54 remaining in the half.

Sophomore Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS) and Harris combined for Michigan's final four points of the first frame, as the Wolverines headed into the locker room with a 45-34 advantage. Harris and Robinson paced U-M's offensive effort in the first half, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively. Johnson and Kris Humphries netted eight points apiece in the first 20 minutes to lead the Gophers.

Minnesota quickly got back into contention at the outset of the second half thanks to a 10-4 run in the first three minutes. The Gophers Humphries and Hagan combined for the 10 points, beating the Wolverines with short jumpers and layups. Robinson contributed the four points, but Michigan helped Minnesotas cause by giving up three turnovers and fouling twice.

With the Wolverines leading 49-44, Brown put home the next three points from the line, allowing U-M to keep a four-point edge. Another triple from Abram and two more points from Brown made the score 57-50 in favor of Michigan with 12:32 left in the game.

The Gophers came out of a timeout and connected on four straight triples during a 12-4 run to grab a 62-61 lead with 8:15 to play, but Horton answered back with a quick hoop to put U-M back up by one point. That basket would be Michigan's last for over three minutes, as Minnesota connected for seven straight points from the free throw line during a 9-0 run to regain a 71-63 lead with 5:38 to go.

Michigan took a turn stepping up to the charity stripe, as Abram and Sims combined to score the next five U-M points from the line to cut the Gopher lead to 76-68. Sims came out of a timeout and made a huge three-point play inside, but Hagen responded with a dunk to keep the Minnesota lead at seven points with 2:31 left. After Horton knocked down two crucial jumpers to cut the deficit to 78-75, Sims had a chance to bring the Wolverines within one point, but he split two free throws and Minnesota stayed ahead by a bucket.

Michigan was forced to foul Aaron Robinson, who sank two free throws, bringing the score to an 80-76 Minnesota lead. Following a missed triple by Harris, Humphries split a pair from the line to put the Gophers up by five with 24 seconds to play. On U-M's next possession, Sims collected a Horton miss and slammed it home to bring the Wolverines within three points.

A Michigan foul put Minnesota at the line, and both of Adam Boone's two free throws were off the mark, allowing Harris a chance to tie the game in the final eight seconds. But the freshman was unable to connect, and the clocked ticked away with his shot airborne, handing the Wolverines an 81-78 loss.

The Wolverines will stay on the road to close out the week with a trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, to take on Iowa Saturday (Feb. 14) for the second time this season. The Wolverines took a 90-84 decision over the Hawkeyes at Crisler Arena on Jan. 28. Saturday's ESPN-Regional tipoff is scheduled for 1:32 p.m. CST.

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

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