ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team suffered their first defeat of the season, dropping a 68-61 decision to the No. 14 UCLA Saturday afternoon (Dec. 17) at Crisler Arena. Despite a strong effort in the waning minutes of the second half, the Wolverines were not able to overcome a hot UCLA ball club, who shot a blistering 48-percent from beyond the arc.
The Wolverines had four players in double-figures against the Bruins, including 15 points off the bench by senior Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS), who also produced eight rebounds. The starting backcourt of senior Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill HS) and junior Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) combined for 24 points, with 14 coming from Harris as Horton dished out six assists. Senior Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS) finished with 12 points and six boards.
U-M jumped out to a quick 8-0 advantage led by the play of Horton. The senior guard connected on two baskets from field during the run, including a fast break lay-up following a steal by Brown. Horton did more than score as he found Abram down low for a key acrobatic put back.
A three-point basket by UCLA guard Arron Afflalo, following a Bruin timeout at 14:21, would be UCLA's first points of the game bringing the score to 8-3. Affalo's three ignited a 16-2 Bruin run in which Affalo connected on four three-pointers. Affalo, UCLA's top scorer coming into the ball game, shot five-of-eight beyond the arc in the first half leading to 17 points.
U-M did not stay down for long, as the Wolverines clawed back with an 8-0 run, retaking the lead at 18-16 with 8:50 remaining before half. Sophomore Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) got the run underway with a reverse lay up, only to be followed with an Abram dunk. The Wolverines continued to work in the paint as Harris connected on a jumper in the lane to tie the game at 16. Hunter capped off the run with two free-throws.
The Bruins responded with an 8-0 spurt of their own, with four points coming off of the free-throws. Both squads then traded baskets as Harris hit two jump shots, that were only to be followed by Affalo's fifth three-pointer of the opening half, stretching the UCLA lead to 32-25 with just over three-minutes left.
Michigan closed out the first half much in the way they started it, with a 7-0 run led by Horton. Following an Abram bucket that cut the lead to 32-27, Horton connected on two straight baskets including a teardrop floater, bringing U-M to within one. On the next trip down court, a Sims block pushed the ball up court into the hands of Hunter whose thunderous slam brought the sell-out Crisler Arena to their feet, giving the Wolverines a 33-32 lead with 55-seconds left before the break. A Sims free throw concluded the first half, with Michigan holding a 34-32 advantage.
The Wolverines featured a balanced first half effort, as the backcourt tandem of Harris and Horton paired for 17 points as both Hunter and Abram chipped in with six points apiece. Sims, the team's leading scorer coming into the game, did not score a field-goal in the first half, but his presence was still felt with a team leading five boards.
The combo of Horton and Harris opened up the second half with two baskets, extending the Michigan lead to 38-32 with just under two-minutes into the final period. Two UCLA baskets followed, before a pair of Sims free throws brought the score to 40-37 with 15:54 left in the second period.
UCLA then went a on a 10-1 run, which included Affalo's six-three pointer of the afternoon. An Abram three-pointer cut the Bruin advantage to 49-44 with 10:08 left in the second half, but the Bruins ballooned their lead to 57-44 following an 8-0 run.
After exchanging baskets, Michigan battled back with an 11-2 run, bringing the Wolverines to within four at 63-59 with 2:37 left in the game. Hunter spearheaded the effort, with six points during the run, including a three point bomb to cut the UCLA lead to less than ten. A Harris three pointer capped off the run.
Hunter connected on another basket with just over a minute to play, but the Bruins hung on, barely escaping with a 68-61 UCLA victory.
The Wolverines will continue their four game home stand Thursday (Dec. 22) against Miami (Ohio). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Crisler Arena and will be televised on Comcast.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423