NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team fell short in its attempt at a second NIT championship in three seasons, as the Wolverines dropped a 76-64 decision to South Carolina in the title game Thursday evening (March 30) at Madison Square Garden. Michigan (22-11) was never able to recover from a 12-point halftime deficit, making a late charge to draw within nine before the game clock dwindled down. One of the key factors of the game was U-M's lack of production from the foul line, as the Wolverines connected on just 3-of-8 compared to South Carolina's 11-of-18.
Playing his final game in a Michigan uniform, senior Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) tallied a team-high 18 points in addition to five assists, two steals and two blocks. Senior Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) finished his last collegiate game with 12 points, including two triples, and a team-high six rebounds. Junior Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) posted 12 points, five boards and three blocks off the bench.
The Gamecocks jumped out to an early 6-0 lead until Hunter gave Michigan its first points of the game on a two-handed slam at 17:30. South Carolina continued to get out on the break and find high-percentage opportunities, as it extended the lead to 18-8 with 15:39 left in the first half. The Wolverines came out of the second media timeout at 11:07 and got two big fast-break buckets from senior Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS) and sophomore Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) to trim the lead to 20-14, but USC answered right back with four straight points to keep a 10-point advantage at 8:15.
Six straight Michigan points, including a Petway jam and a transition three-pointer from Coleman, cut the South Carolina lead to 24-21 with 6:08 remaining until the break. The Gamecocks would not back down, scoring seven unanswered points to push their lead to 31-21. A Hunter dunk off his own miss gave U-M the brief momentum, but Dwayne Day scored six of USC's next eight points from beyond the arc to extend the lead to 14. Petway's one-handed jumper as the first-half clock expired sent the Wolverines into the locker room trailing by 12 points, 39-27.
With the exception of Coleman's three-pointer, Michigan scored all of its first-half points from inside the paint. USC finished the half shooting 53 percent (16-of-30) while limiting U-M's backcourt duo of Horton and junior Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) to just four points on 2-of-11 shooting. The Wolverines were unable to get the free throw line once in the first half and converted just 1-of-9 attempts from long range.
South Carolina came out firing with Tre Kelley connecting on back-to-back three-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half, but Hunter and Horton responded with triples of their own to keep Michigan in contention at 47-33. Horton stepped up and scored 10 of U-M's next 12 points, including two more triples, but the Gamecocks were still able to sustain a 58-45 advantage with 9:29 left in the game.
South Carolina maintained a double-digit cushion throughout the next six minutes of the game, but a Petway jam and a Hunter triple from the wing kept the Wolverines alive and trimmed the USC lead to 69-59 with 2:03 to play. Michigan would come as close as nine points in the remaining minutes of the contest, as the Gamecocks drilled a triple with 14.9 seconds on the clock to ice the game and claim their second straight NIT crown.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423