Michigan Tops Minnesota in Big Ten Tournament Opener

CHICAGO, Ill. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 2007 Big Ten Tournament by defeating No. 9-seeded Minnesota 49-40 Thursday afternoon (March 8) in the United Center. The eighth-seeded Wolverines (21-11) used a swarming defense to make up for a spotty offensive performance in advancing to play No. 1 Ohio State Friday (March 9) at 11 a.m. CST on ESPN.

Senior guard Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) led U-M in scoring with 14 points, including 6-for-6 from the free throw stripe. Freshman forward DeShawn Sims (Detroit, Mich./Pershing HS) and senior forward Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) each added eight points.

Michigan jumped out to a 3-0 lead at 18:24 on an old-fashioned three-point play by senior wing Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS). The play was jumpstarted by a high-flying defensive block by Petway, who also grabbed an offensive rebound at the other end to keep the possession alive. Neither offense found rhythm early, but the Wolverine defense held Minnesota (9-22) scoreless for the first four minutes of the contest. U-M took its 3-0 lead into the first break at 15:46.

Michigan held a 5-0 advantage -- thanks to a post finish by senior center Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) -- until the Gophers scored on a pair of free throws at 15:07. The points woke up the Minnesota offense, as the Gophers took their first lead of the contest, 8-7, at the 12:20 mark. The Wolverines' cold streak continued, and U-M trailed 9-7 at 10:46.

The Gophers kept momentum, extending their advantage to 12-7 on a Lawrence McKenzie triple at 10:59. But DeShawn Sims provided Michigan with a needed offensive spark, finishing a pair of impressive layups -- the latter on an acrobatic scoop in the open floor -- and adding a free throw to get U-M back on track. Sims' explosion led U-M to knot the game 12-12 at 7:39. Harris then scored his first four points of the game on a pair from the charity stripe and a lay-in off a steal, returning the lead to Michigan, 16-12, at 4:37.

Harris answered a late Gopher run with a long-distance three with 51 seconds left in the half, and Michigan entered the locker room with a 20-16 advantage.

The sluggish offensive starts led both the Gophers and Wolverines to commit eight turnovers in the opening half. Michigan shot 7-of-23 from the floor and grabbed 19 rebounds during the stanza, while Minnesota shot 6-of-21 to set its season low for points in a first half (16). Harris led U-M with seven points.

Great ball movement helped Harris open the second half the way he closed the first, nailing a long triple from the top of the circle at 18:42. Sophomore guard Jerret Smith (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) followed with a three-pointer of his own to hand Michigan its biggest lead to that point, 29-21, at 17:03. U-M's energetic start to the second stanza continued, as Harris completed a pair of free throws (a result of a technical foul on Minnesota head coach Jim Molinari), Petway slashed for an inside hoop, and Smith added a pair of free throws at 15:20 to grow the Michigan advantage to 35-21.

Michigan's defense remained strong and, following a made Smith free throw at 11:57, the Wolverines carried a 15-point lead (38-23). A Jamal Abu-Shamala triple at 8:56 closed the gap to 11 (38-27), and, following a tip-in by DeShawn Sims, free throws from Spencer Tollackson and Abu-Shamala held U-M's advantage at 11, 40-29, at 8:09.

The Gophers continued to claw back, using an 11-3 run to narrow Michigan's lead to six (40-34) at 6:07. Junior wing Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) hit a vital triple at 5:34 to end the Minnesota streak, but it was quickly answered at the other end by Abu-Shamala's trey, keeping the U-M lead at six.

Harris' pair from the charity stripe gave Michigan a 45-37 lead with about three minutes remaining. Ensuing free throws made by sophomore wing Jevohn Shepherd (Toronto, Ontario, Canada/West Hills Collegiate), Petway and freshman guard Reed Baker (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) in the final two minutes stalled the Gopher comeback effort, sealing the 49-40 Michigan triumph.

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

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