EVANSTON, Ill. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team ended its 2003-04 regular season with a 63-56 victory at Northwestern Saturday afternoon (March 6) in Welsh-Ryan Arena. With the victory, coupled with Wisconsin's win over Indiana earlier in the day, Michigan earned a first-round bye in next week's (March 11-14) Big Ten Conference Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind. The Wolverines will be the No. 5 seed and face No. 4 seed Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Friday (March 12).
Horton scored his 16 points in the game's first 20:34.
Leading the way for the Maize and Blue were sophomores Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS)
and Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS)
. Horton dropped in a team-best 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half, while Abram added 14 off the bench. Freshman Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS)
contributed 10 points in a starting role for U-M, and freshman Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass/Noble & Greenough School)
held his ground in the middle with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
Jitim Young got Northwestern rolling in the early going, as he scored NU's first seven points of the ballgame, helping the Wildcats jump out to 7-1 advantage. Michigan did not help its efforts, going the first four minutes of the game without a field goal. Horton ended the drought though when he connected from the floor with a three-pointer from the top of the key at 15:59 to pull the Wolverines within three at 7-4.
Young and the Wildcats continued to control the pace of the game as they forced the Wolverines into six turnovers, which the home team was able to turn into a 14-7 advantage over the first nine minutes game. Michigan did not help its cause on the offensive end, shooting just 22 percent (2-of-9) from the field, both baskets coming behind the three-point arc.
Horton again responded, hitting three straight runners to bring the Wolverines within one at 14-13. Harris made it four consecutive baskets by the Maize and Blue, handing U-M its first lead of the ballgame at 15-14 at the 9:39 mark. Michigan's backcourt barrage ignited an 18-4 run stretched over 8:02, pushing the Wolverines lead to 25-19. The run was highlighted by eight points from Horton and a thunderous dunk from the baseline by sophomore center Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio AuSable HS).
Northwestern went on a 12-4 run of its own though and took a 31-29 lead with 1:38 left in the first half, as power forward Vedran Vukusic hit back-to-back three-pointers from the right wing. After a Michigan miss, Vukusic appeared to put NU up three but was called for traveling, handing the ball back to U-M. The Wolverines took advantage of the miscue, as Horton converted his second three-pointer of the game and sent the Maize and Blue into the locker room with a 32-31 halftime advantage.
The Wolverines' lead swelled to six, 41-35, following a one-handed slam by Sims at 15:36 of the second half. Vukusic answered yet again, with a three-pointer to bring the score to 41-38, but on the ensuing possession Abram hit a triple of his own and Brown worked his way to a turnaround in the lane to balloon U-M's advantage to 46-38 with 13:38 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats kept things close over the next three and a half minutes and clawed their way within two points at 48-46 following consecutive runners by point guard T.J. Parker. Northwestern turned up the defensive pressure, forcing two turnovers, blocking two shots and holding Michigan without a field goal over a 5:06 stretch in which NU countered with an 8-2 run.
The two teams battled back and forth down over the next seven minutes of action, as the score read 55-53 in favor of U-M following a pair of free throws by Young with 1:45 left. However, that was as close as the Wildcats would get, as Sims put in an Abram miss to put Michigan ahead 57-53. Abram and Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washington D.C./New Hampton Prep [N.H.]) added free throws down the stretch to give Michigan the eventual seven-point win.
Michigan will return to action Friday (March 12) as the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Conference Tournament and face No. 4-seeded Iowa in the quarterfinal round in Indianapolis, Ind. The game is slated for a 2:30 p.m. tipoff and will be telecast on ESPN.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423