MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 62-51 Saturday (Feb. 24) in Williams Arena. Following a first half that two Gophers (9-20, 3-12 Big Ten) accounted for almost all of Minnesota's points, the Wolverines (19-10, 7-7 Big Ten) were able to shut down the Gopher game plan, holding Minnesota to five field goals in the second half. A 19-6 U-M run midway through second half iced the Michigan victory, as the Wolverines picked up their second Big Ten road victory of the season.
Senior Dion Harris (Detroit,Mich./Redford HS) led the team with 15 points on 4-for-12 shooting, including 3-for-7 from beyond the arc. He also netted four free throws, pulled down six rebounds and dished out three assists.
Fifth-year senior Lester Abram (Pontiac,Mich./Northern HS) and freshman Ekpe Udoh (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe HS) finished with 14 points apiece. Abram shot 6-for-9 from the field, including a long range three-pointer. Udoh produced an excellent all-around game on 6-for-9 shooting in addition to posting four rebounds, four blocks, and a steal.
While not scoring in double-digits, sophomore Jerret Smith (Romulus,Mich./Romulus HS) had eight points on 3-for-4 shooting, while pulling down nine rebounds and dishing five assists.
Following the benching of all five Minnesota starters by coach Jim Molinari in the game's first two minutes, backup sophomore guard Jamal Abu-Shamala shot the Gophers into an early 13-12 lead at 11:37 in the first half. Abu-Shamala connected on a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, including three straight baskets from beyond the arc. Abu-Shamala's 5-for-5 shooting effort helped alleviate a 0-for-9 drought by the rest the Gophers.
Smith countered Abu-Shamala with a nice start of his own, draining two baskets while spreading the ball to keep the deficit within a basket. Smith would go on to finish with five points and five assists in the first half.
Both teams traded baskets over the next five minutes and found themselves knotted, 22-22, with 5:02 left before halftime. Abram would come alive during the stretch, tallying seven of his 10 first-half points, including a key three-point play in transition.
As the half came to a close, Harris connected on two triples to take the Wolverines into the locker room with a 33-30 advantage. Harris finished with 10 points in the opening half, including a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line.
All of Minnesota's 10 first-half field goals were made by to Aba-Shamala and junior forward Dan Coleman. Aba-Shamala finished the game's first 20 minutes with 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting, and Coleman added 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field.
Out of the locker room, Udoh nailed three baskets to go with a layup by senior Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School), and U-M took a 41-36 advantage at 16:55 in the second half. Continuing his hot shooting from late in the opening stanza, Harris netted his third trey of the afternoon, matching Abu-Shamala's fifth three-pointer, which came on the Gopher's previous trip down court, to keep a 44-39 Wolverine lead at 16:15.
The Gophers saw the Michigan advantage grow later in the second half, as a Udoh basket extended the U-M lead to 53-43 with 8:45 left in the contest. Smith and senior Brent Petway (McDonough,Ga./Griffin HS) drained field goals and free throws during the run.
Michigan's lead continued to balloon, reaching 60-45 with 4:57 remaining. Wearing down the Gopher defense, Abram and Harris were able to drive inside for a pair of lay-ups with six minutes remaining in the contest. A Udoh put-back slam with less than five minutes to play gave U-M a 15-point advantage, putting the exclamation point at what became a 62-51 Michigan victory.
Minnesota junior guard Lawrence McKenzie, who came into the ballgame averaging a team-high 16 points per contest, finished the afternoon 0-for-10 from the field for 0 points.
The Wolverines will return home for a pair of games next week. First up is an intrastate battle with Michigan State Tuesday (Feb. 27) in Crisler Arena. The sold out game is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff, and will be part of the ESPN-Regional package.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423