ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team advanced to the NIT semifinals with an 88-73 victory over Hawaii Wednesday night (March 24) in front of 10,306 fans at Crisler Arena. The Wolverines (21-11) showcased a spectacular offensive effort throughout the entire contest, as five Wolverines finished the game in double figures.
What can Brown do for U-M Fourteen points, six boards.
Sophomore Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS)
led the U-M charge with 17 points and five rebounds, while senior Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washington, D.C./New Hampton Prep [N.H.])
finished his last career game at Crisler with 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Sophomore Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS)
turned in his best performance of the season, matching a career high with 14 points to go along with six boards. Sophomore Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS)
contributed 13 points and five assists, and freshman Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS)
chipped in 12 points. Michael Kuebler finished with 19 points to lead a quartet of double-digit scorers for the Rainbow Warriors.
The Wolverines got off to an explosive start on the offensive end of the floor, as Horton drilled a three from the top of the arc to start the game. After a Hawaii triple tied things up, Robinson collected his first points on a tough tip-in off a Horton miss. Four straight points by the Rainbows made the score 7-5 in favor of Hawaii, but Horton blocked a three-point attempt and got it back on the break for a slam to knot the score once again. Following a Hawaii layup, Robinson knocked down two free throws to tie the score at 9-9 heading into the first media timeout at 15:56.
Michigan kept the momentum after the timeout, as Robinson came up with a steal and fed it to sophomore Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) for a two-handed dunk. The Rainbow Warriors continued their hot shooting from the field, as Haim Shimonovich connected on a short jumper to tie the game at 11-11. The Wolverines then stormed out to a 21-13 lead thanks to a 10-2 run. Harris started the surge with his first triple, and Robinson followed with a fast-break slam. Brown got into the scoring mix with a three-point play down low, and Robinson capped off the run with a layup in transition to give U-M the eight-point lead with 13:07 remaining in the half.
Hawaii responded with a 9-3 run over the next three minutes to cut the Michigan lead to 24-23. Freshman Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) got the Wolverines back on track with a quick layup, and Abram swiped a Hawaii pass and took it in all alone for the slam to give U-M a 28-23 advantage. Hawaii came right back with dunk from Julian Sensley and a Kuebler three-pointer to knot the score at 28-28 with 8:24 left until the break.
Harris came out of the timeout and buried a long two to put Michigan in front, but Sensley answered with another slam. U-M continued its execution inside, as Brown hit a short turnaround jumper and Harris found a cutting Abram for a lay-in and the foul. The free throw dropped and freshman Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) followed with a nice jump hook on the next possession to put the Wolverines up 37-32 with 5:21 to go in the first frame.
The teams traded buckets in the closing minutes of the first half, including a short jumper by Abram. A triple by Sensley cut the Wolverine lead to 39-37, but U-M closed out first 20 minutes with a flourish. Petway scored another two inside after a nice feed from Robinson, and Abram connected on a jumper from the wing to give Michigan a 43-37 advantage heading into the locker room.
Abram, who missed the Wolverines' last three games due to injury, paced U-M's offensive effort with 12 first-half points, while Robinson chipped in eight points and three assists. Sensley and Shimonovich scored eight points apiece to lead the Rainbow Warriors in the first frame.
Horton began the second half with jumper to push the lead to eight points, and Harris and Brown allowed U-M to keep a 49-41 advantage with two free throws each. Horton then stepped up and gave the Wolverines two consecutive fast-break layups to increase the cushion to 10 points, 53-43, with 16:01 to play in the game.
Michigan's stellar play in the post allowed the lead to stay in double figures, with Hunter muscling home two points in traffic and Brown converting on another layup. A jumper from Robinson and a pair of free throws by Petway made the score 61-50 in favor of U-M with just under 12 minutes left.
Sensley scored the next six Hawaii points to keep the Rainbow Warriors within seven points, 63-56. Brown continued to play big minutes inside, converting on another three-point play. Sims followed with a slam from the baseline, and Harris connected on a tough lay-in on the break to keep the lead at 11 points. Kuebler kept Hawaii within striking distance with his fourth triple, but Harris answered with another U-M three-point play to increase the lead to 75-62 with 7:25 to go in the game.
The Wolverines never let up, continuing to punish Hawaii in the paint. Abram scored on a pretty post-up move, and Hunter tipped in a miss to make the score 79-65. Petway brought the crowd to its feet once again with an alley-oop dunk, while Robinson scored his final points at Crisler Arena on two free throws. Abram and Horton capped off Michigan's solid offensive performance with pair of layups in final two minutes to seal the win.
The Wolverines advance to the NIT semifinals and will face the winner of Notre Dame and Oregon next Tuesday (March 30) at Madison Square Garden in New York City, N.Y. Tipoff will either be at 7 p.m. or 9 p.m., and the contest will be televised by ESPN2.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423