NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team earned a berth in the NIT championship game for the second time in three years with a resounding 66-43 victory over Old Dominion in the semifinal round Tuesday evening (March 28) at Madison Square Garden. Michigan (22-10) will meet South Carolina in the title game on Thursday (March 30) at 7 p.m. That game will be televised by ESPN.
The story of the game was the combination of Michigan's smothering defense and the offensive production of the Wolverine frontcourt. Junior Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) tallied a game-high 18 points in addition to seven rebounds, while senior Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) finished with nine points and a game-high nine boards. Senior Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) chipped in 10 points and three assists. U-M got a lift off the bench from sophomore Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS), who posted nine points, three rebounds and two steals.
Michigan's defense caused ODU field-goal droughts of 13:25 and 9:12 to back up the effort on the offensive end of the floor. The Wolverines held the Monarchs' top two scorers, Isaiah Hunter (14.6 ppg) and Alex Loughton (13.8 ppg), to a combined seven points on 2-of-22 shooting. Old Dominion finished the game shooting just 28 percent (15-of-54) as a team.
It was a fast-paced affair in the early going, with Michigan executing down low and Old Dominion finding opportunities in transition. Neither team was able to build a lead of more than four points during the first seven minutes of action. Hunter accounted for five of U-M's first nine points, while Coleman came off the bench and connected on a quick triple. A tough jumper off the window by junior Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) put the Wolverines ahead 14-12 with 15:22 remaining in the first half.
The Monarchs found their rhythm and reeled off nine unanswered points over the next three minutes of play to regain a 21-14 advantage. A Loughton three-pointer at 12:14, which capped the 9-0 run, would be Old Dominion's final field goal of the first half.
Meanwhile, Michigan clawed back and steadily built a lead while clamping down on every defensive possession. The Wolverines ended the half on an 18-3 run, with Sims being the main catalyst during the surge. He scored eight points over a span of eight minutes, including a huge put-back slam which put Michigan on top 31-24 with 1:35 left until the break.
An easy transition bucket by senior Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS) off a Horton steal sent the Wolverines into the locker room leading by eight points, 32-24. The Michigan defense limited the Monarchs to just three free throws the last 12:14 of the first half.
The U-M frontcourt was responsible for 21 of the Wolverines' 32 points in the first half, led by Sims' eight points. Hunter finished the first half with seven points and six rebounds. Michigan shot 46 percent from the field (12-of-26) and held Old Dominion to just 30 percent (9-of-30) shooting.
The Monarchs found their touch in the early minutes of the second half, with Brian Henderson knocking down three straight triples to trim the deficit to 35-33 and force the Wolverines to call a timeout at 17:35. A Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) triple put Michigan back up by five points, and Sims scored seven of U-M's next nine points to push the lead into double digits for the first time at 46-36 with 12:32 to go in the game.
A Petway alley-oop jam off a pretty feed from freshman Jerret Smith (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) kept the momentum in Michigan's favor and put the Wolverines on top 48-38. Old Dominion was unable to draw nearer than eight points the rest of the way, as U-M was able to sustain a double-digit cushion thanks to an 18-3 run to end the game. Michigan held the Monarchs to just a single three-point field goal in the final 9:55 of the contest.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423