ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team opened its 2003-04 campaign tonight (Friday, Nov. 21) with an 84-58 victory over Oakland University at Crisler Arena in front of 12,038 fans. The Wolverines had four players score in double figures, led by senior Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washington, D.C./New Hampton Prep, N.H.), who scored a game-high 21 points and tied for the game high in rebounds with eight. Headlining for the Golden Grizzlies was Rawle Marshall, who had 20 points.
Michigan's team defense impressed, holding the Golden Grizzlies to .344 shooting from the field, while freshman Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) had a dazzling six blocked shots. Michigan's other three big scorers were sophomore Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS), who had 19 points, freshman guard Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS), who had 15 points along with six assists, and Sims, who had 12 points and six rebounds.
Michigan opened up the scoring with a tip-in by Sims, but Oakland garnered a quick 4-2 advantage at 19:09 with back-to-back baskets. The Wolverines scored the next five points, however, to establish a 7-2 lead. Sims fed sophomore Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) for an easy flush and Hunter then found Robinson backdoor for a one-handed dunk. OU's Marshall narrowed the lead to one point at 16:30.
Harris entered the game and promptly nailed his first three-pointer at 14:43. Shortly thereafter, the Wolverines broke loose with an 11-0 run over the next three minutes. Sophomore Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) hit senior/junior J.C. Mathis (Brooklyn, N.Y./John F. Kennedy HS) with an outlet pass for a layup, and a turnover resulted in an uncontested Horton hoop to start things off. Following an OU timeout, Abram capped the run at 10:48 with Michigan up 21-10.
After nearly three minutes without scoring, Oakland rediscovered its rhythm and rattled off the next seven points to cut its deficit to 21-17 with 9:43 remaining. Robinson notched the next four points to keep the Wolverines ahead but the Grizzlies continued to chip away, scoring seven of the game's next nine points to tie the score at 27-27 with 6:32 to play in the half.
Over the final six minutes of the first half Michigan started to click on both ends of the court, scoring 18 points while limiting the Grizzlies to just seven. Abram had seven of U-M's points over the stretch as U-M took a 45-34 lead into the locker room. Robinson and Abram led Michigan in scoring at the break with 13 points apiece.
Out of halftime, the Maize and Blue continued to turn offense into defense. Hunter had two rim-rattling slams in transition as a part of an 8-0 run in the opening two and a half minutes to extend the U-M lead to a 53-34. At 17:06, Oakland finally snapped its scoreless streak with a basket and one. Nevertheless, Michigan ran off the next nine points with hoops from four different players for a 62-37 lead at 15:08.
An alley-oop got the Grizzlies back on the board at 15:02. In fact, Oakland linked together a 13-4 run over the next three minutes to make it 66-50. Inside of 10 minutes to play, the Wolverines solidified their control of the game with another big run, this one being 13-1 over four-plus minutes to hold a 79-51 lead at the 5:53 mark.
With the clock winding down, Michigan emptied its bench to the standing ovation of the Wolverine student section. With a sizeable lead, the Wolverines spread the floor and preserved the win in their home opener.
Michigan's next game will be on Wednesday (Nov. 26) when it takes on High Point. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Crisler Arena.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423