ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team advanced to the NIT semifinals Thursday night (March 22), storming past the Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes, 71-65, in the Wolverine senior's last home ball game at Crisler Arena. The Maize and Blue never trailed in the contest, leading as much as 13 points in the second half, as Michigan finished the game out shooting the Hurricanes 21-for-22 from the foul line, compared to Miami's 5-for-6 from the stripe.
With the victory, the Wolverines advance to the NIT semifinals and will face Old Dominion, who defeated Hofstra 61-51 Wednesday night, Tuesday (March 28) at Madison Square Garden in New York City, N.Y. Tipoff will either be at 7 p.m. or 9:30 p.m., and the contest will be televised by ESPN2.
With no public sale at the University of Michigan, tickets for all NIT Final Four games will be available for sale through the Madison Square Garden ticket department. For tickets call Ticketmaster at (212) 307-7171. Tickets prices will be available $54.50, $34.50, $27.50 and $21.50.
En route to the win, the Wolverines finished with four players in double-figures, led by senior guard Daniel Horton's (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) 19 points. Horton finished with 5-of-11 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, while draining 6-of-6 from the foul line. He also dished out five assists and two steals in 31 minutes of action. Senior forward Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) netted 16-points on 5-of-9 shooting and finished a perfect 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Hunter also accounted for three rebounds, two blocks, and an assist.
Senior wing Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS) and junior guard Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) rounded out the Wolverine effort with 15 points apiece. Abram recorded 10 of his 15 from the line, finishing 10-of-10, along with getting it done on the defensive end by recording six board and two steals. Harris's 15 points came mainly from the field, hitting 6-of-11 shots. He also finished with two rebounds and an assist.
Starting an all senior lineup for the third time this postseason, the Wolverines used their veteran playing experience to jump out to a 16-5 lead. Horton ignited the run with eight points, including connecting on a pair of three-pointers. Harris, with a pretty floater, pitched in with his first points since Tuesday's game winner against Notre Dame, to stretch the lead to 14-5. With already 12 of Michigan's points coming from the perimeter, the Wolverines turned down low to Sims, pushing the U-M lead into double digits and capping off the Wolverine run with 14-minutes left in the first half.
With Michigan looking to blow away the Hurricanes, Miami responded with a 10-3 spurt, cutting the Michigan lead to 19-11 and in the process ended a 4:22 scoreless streak. Miami used terrific ball movement and offensive balance to stun the Wolverines, as two of the Hurricanes' buckets came from the outside with the other two coming in the post. Fending off Miami was Tuesday's hero, Harris, as he hit a long three pointer to keep the Hurricanes at bay.
The Wolverines did not lay down for long, extending the lead to 29-19 with 7:43 remaining. Hunter got it going for the Maize and Blue with a circus lay-up assisted by Horton, and the foul, which was followed with a Horton field goal. The senior point guard would then shoot himself, connecting on his third three-point field goal of the night to put Michigan back up 10.
Miami countered, turning up the heat defensively, as the Maize and Blue failed to hit a field goal over the next seven minutes of action. Collecting only four points, all coming from the foul line, the Hurricanes were able to cut the Michigan advantage to two, 31-29. A pair of free-throws by Hunter gave U-M a four point cushion, 33-29, before stepping back and drilling a three-pointer ending the Michigan drought with 34 seconds left before half. Harris provided the exclamation point on the 7-0 run, as his dunk at 0:07 sent the Wolverines into the locker room with a 38-29 lead.
The story of the first half was the hot shooting by Michigan, which shot 12-of-23 from the field (52 percent), while netting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc (57 percent). The Wolverines also finished with a perfect 9-of-9 from the foul line.
The Wolverine lead ballooned out to 13 (47-34), their largest lead of the contest, on Sims' bucket at 13:25 in the second half. Leading up to the basket was a three-pointer by Harris, his second of the night, and a Hunter field goal.
The Hurricanes battled back, holding the Wolverines to just one field goal over the next 4:27. With the U-M lead cut to 50-44, Michigan weathered the storm, going on an 8-2 run, to extend the lead to 58-46 with 6:40 remaining in the game. Hunter jump-started the push with two baskets, before Abram capped off the run with a midrange hoop.
Abram's basket proved to be the Wolverines last field goal for the next 3:15, giving the Hurricanes life, until a Harris three-pointer brought the score to 63-55 at the 3:25 mark and closed the door on any Miami comeback. Following two free-throws by Abram, Horton would finish with the last six Michigan points, including four from the foul line, icing a 71-65 victory.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423