ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team suffered a 72-69 conference loss to Michigan State Tuesday evening (Feb. 24) in front of a sold-out crowd at Crisler Arena. The Wolverines (15-9, 6-7 Big Ten) were able to establish a significant lead in the first half but could not hold onto it as the game progressed. Michigan had two players reach double digits, with freshman Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) leading the team with a career-high 19 points, going 7-for-8 from the field and 5-for-5 from the line. Sims also posted nine boards, two blocks, two steals and one assist to complete his line.
Sims (44) scored 11 of his career-high 19 points in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Senior Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washington, D.C./New Hampton Prep [N.H.])
also reached double figures, putting up 15 points, going 4-for-10 from the field with two triples as well as 5-for-6 from the line. Robinson also contributed six assists to the offensive drive along with four steals. Freshman Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS)
quietly had a good game, dishing off six assists and putting up nine points including two triples.
The first half began with the Wolverines using a pressure defense to hold the Spartans to limited scoring. The teams stayed locked in a 6-6 tie until the 16-minute mark when Michigan went on a 17-7, six-minute run to give it a 21-13 lead with 10 minutes left in the half. Robinson was a catalyst in the action, hitting four hoops including two triples to put 10 on the board for the Wolverines.
For the remainder of the half, the Wolverines and the Spartans stayed at a deadlock with each team posting 13 points. MSU did not bow out of the game, but continued to put up sporadic points to keep the Wolverines from getting ahead any further. Michigan used good post production to maintain its lead as Sims drove it to the hoop for seven points including a three-point bonus play to help the Wolverines to a 34-26 lead going into the locker rooms.
The Michigan State offense came to life in the second half and began to eat away at the Wolverine lead. The Spartans outscored the Maize and Blue 10-7 for the first five minutes of play to take a little away from Michigan's eight-point advantage. The Wolverines turned to baskets under the hoop to reestablish a presence, rattling off six straight points from Sims and sophomore forward Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) to give them a 47-36 lead with 13:24 remaining.
After back-and-forth scoring kept the Wolverines ahead 52-40, the Spartans took control of the contest, going on a 13-3 run, including three triples, to come within two points of Michigan's diminishing lead. With 5:56 left on the clock, MSU put up two points to tie the game at 57, catching Michigan for the first time since 15:14 in the first half.
The Wolverines were able to stay alive thanks to good free throw shooting, hitting 4-of-4 from the line to counteract Michigan State's shots from the field. With the game at a 61-point tie, the Wolverines were having trouble connecting for points. The Spartans took advantage, sinking another one from the field to take the lead 63-61 with just 3:24 remaining in the contest.
After MSU hit two free throws for a four-point advantage, Michigan's fight with time began as the Spartans started running a spread offense to drain the clock. With just 1:11 left in the contest, Harris connected for one under the net to put Michigan within two. The Spartans responded with a triple to extend the advantage to five (68-63) with a mere 39 seconds left to play.
Michigan State had the opportunity to put up two more tallies at the free throw line, but a miss allowed Harris to drain a triple at the other end to again put the Wolverines within two with 25 seconds left in the contest. Michigan's chances would drop dramatically as fouls put the Spartans at the line to extend their lead. After two straight Wolverine fouls, MSU went 4-for-4 at the line and held a 72-66 advantage with 16 seconds to play. As the clock wound down, Abram drained a three-point basket with two seconds remaining on the clock to cut the final margin to three. The effort was too little too late, however, as the Spartans defeated the Wolverines 72-69.
The Wolverines will close out a four-game homestand against Ohio State on Sunday (Feb. 29) at Crisler Arena. The leap-year game will also be Senior Day for Michigan's Robinson and Colin Dill (Saginaw, Mich./Birmingham Country Day School). The two will be honored before the game. The contest against the Buckeyes will be aired on CBS with a tipoff scheduled for noon.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423