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.
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