NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team advanced to the NIT championship game with a commanding 78-53 victory over Oregon Tuesday night (March 30) at Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines (22-11) performed brilliantly on both ends of the floor, forcing 16 turnovers and limiting the Ducks (18-13) to a season-low scoring output while shooting an impressive 52.7 percent from the field. Michigan will face Rutgers, an 84-81 overtime winner over Iowa State, in the title game Thursday (April 1). The game is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
Robinson tallied 13 points and helped limit Oregon star Luke Jackson to just four points after intermission.
Sophomore Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS)
spearheaded the offensive charge with 15 points, including four three-pointers, and matched a career high with nine assists. Freshman Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS)
also lit it up from behind the arc, connecting on three triples en route to 14 points. Senior Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washinton D.C./New Hampton Prep [N.H.])
had another solid all-around performance, contributing 13 points, five boards, four assists and four steals. Sophomore Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS)
collected 10 points and four rebounds, while fellow classmates Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS)
and Graham Brown (Mio, Mich./Mio-AuSable HS)
each finished with nine points. Luke Jackson led Oregon with game highs of 17 points and seven rebounds.
The teams traded baskets throughout the first five minutes of the game. Oregon used a variety of mid-range jumpers to score a majority of its early points, while the Wolverines kept pace with the perimeter shooting of their backcourt. Freshman Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) got things started with a soft turnaround jumper, and Horton followed with a triple from the wing on U-M's next possession. With the Ducks holding a 6-5 lead, Robinson stepped up and scored the next four Michigan points to keep the Wolverines within a point of the lead. After a defensive stop, Harris drilled his first three-pointer to give U-M a 12-10 advantage heading into the first media timeout at 15:10.
Sims increased the lead to four points after the timeout, as he connected on a nice turnaround hook down low. After Harris made the score 15-10 with a free throw, Jackson scored four straight points thanks to pair of Oregon steals. The Wolverines responded with an 11-0 run over the next two minutes, including three triples. Horton connected on his second three, while Abram followed with another bucket from behind the arc. Following a tricky lefthanded lay-in by Abram, Hunter stepped up and hit a triple from the top to give the Wolverines a 26-17 lead and force the Ducks to call a timeout at 11:38.
Michigan was able to sustain the double-digit lead after Harris knocked down two consecutive triples and Abram converted on another layup in transition to put U-M on top 36-24. The Wolverines continued to find the bottom of the net, as Horton nailed another three with just under four minutes to play in the half. Michigan would not back down, as Horton swiped a pass and took it in all alone for the layup to push the lead to 41-24.
Oregon was able to stay within striking distance late in the first half, as Andre Joseph put home two straight triples to cut the deficit to 43-30. Harris finished the half with a steal and lay-in, but Aaron Brooks came back with a hoop in the closing seconds to keep the Ducks within 14 points, 46-32, heading to the locker room.
Horton and Harris netted 12 points apiece to lead the Wolverines in the first half, while Jackson paced Oregon with 13 points. Michigan finished the first 20 minutes shooting 59.3 percent from the field (16-of-27), including a sweltering 66.7 percent from three-point range (8-of-12).
The Maize and Blue got off to a furious start to the second half, outscoring the Ducks 9-2 in the first four minutes of action. Brown collected five of the points during the run, and a long two from Abram put the Wolverines ahead 55-34 with 15:48 to play in the game.
An 8-2 Oregon run cut U-M's lead to 57-42, but Michigan answered the call once again with a 14-5 surge over the next eight minutes. Robinson scored two straight baskets in the paint, and freshman Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) scored another hoop in the post. The Wolverines continued to execute under the basket, as Brown converted on two straight dunks from the baseline. A Robinson free throw capped off the run and gave Michigan a dominating 71-47 lead midway through the second half.
Michigan's defense held and time eventually ran out on the Ducks. With under two minutes to go, head coach Tommy Amaker cleared his bench and the U-M reserves were able to secure the 25-point victory.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423