LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team dropped a heartbreaking 81-79 loss to UCLA Saturday (Dec. 18) at Pauley Pavilion. UCLA (6-1) packed a pressure defense on the inside, forcing the Wolverines (6-5) to rely on their perimeter game. Not only did Michigan step up to the challenge, going 7-for-15 from long range, but it still held strong in the post, as Michigan's Chris Hunter (Gary, Ind./West Side HS) and Courtney Sims (Roslindale, Mass./Noble & Greenough School)came away with a combined 38 points. Despite Michigan's precision on the offensive end, the Wolverines had a difficult time keeping pace with the hot-shooting Bruins, who went 27-for-46 (58.7 percent) from the field with six triples of their own.
Hunter's 21 points -- one shy of his career best -- came in only 29 minutes of action.
UCLA led for the majority of the contest, but the Wolverines managed to claw their way to a 75-69 lead after a 9-2 run with just under four minutes to play in the contest. The Bruins did not back down easily, however, and continued their on-the-mark shooting to even the score at 75 with 1:34 left on the clock. The game would come down to the wire, as possession went back and forth with no score before sophomore John Andrews (West Bloomfield, Mich./Orchard Lake St. Mary's HS)
was fouled with just under a minute to play. Andrews came through in the clutch, hitting back-to-back free throws to put Michigan up by two (77-75).
It took just 12 seconds for UCLA to march back down the court and recapture the lead. Bruins' senior guard Dijon Thompson drained his third three-point basket of the game to give UCLA a 78-77 edge with just 43 seconds remaining. Michigan was unable to respond, and the Bruins took over possession with 23 seconds left in the contest. After the Wolverines were forced to foul, UCLA freshman guard Jordan Farmar hit both of his free throws to give the Bruins a three-point advantage. Michigan did not go down without a fight, taking possession as the clock ticked down. Sims kept Michigan alive, tipping in two off a missed field goal attempt to put the Wolverines within one (80-79).
With nine seconds left in the game and a UCLA possession, Michigan fouled again to put Farmar back on the line. The freshman split the pair, and the Wolverines took possession with enough time remaining for one more shot. Sophomore Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) aggressively drove the ball to the hoop in attempt to take the game into overtime, but the shot did not fall.
Four Wolverine players finished the game in double digits, with Hunter leading the pack with 21. The junior forward again proved to be a solid leader for U-M, hitting 8-for-15 from the field along with a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Hunter also contributed to Michigan's perimeter game, hitting his eighth career three-point field goal to put the Wolverines within two (42-40) to close out the first half.
Harris and Sims each contributed 17 points for the Maize and Blue. Harris, playing all 40 minutes for the Wolverines, hit five field goals, including three triples, with a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Sims was a dominating force down low, providing seven field goals and seven boards and shooting 3-for-4 from the line. Freshman Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) rounded out the double-digit scoring with 13 points, including a 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point arc. Coleman played 33 minutes, bringing down seven boards and dishing off five assists.
The Wolverines found themselves playing catch-up from the start, surrendering the lead to UCLA after 4:30 minutes of playing time in the first half. Though Michigan maintained steady scoring throughout the first frame, the Bruins slowly but surely increased their lead until they held a 36-28 advantage with just over five minutes to play in the half.
The Maize and Blue came up big to close out the first 20 minutes of play as Harris drained a triple to get Michigan going. Andrews then hit back-to-back free throws before hitting a jumper in the paint to put the Wolverines within three (38-35). Hunter put in a two-point basket to get within one, but the Bruins responded with four points of their own. Michigan got the last play, however, as Hunter hit a three-point shot for the final score of the half to bring the Maize and Blue within two (42-40) heading into the locker rooms.
The second half was much tighter than the first, with four ties and seven lead changes. UCLA came out strong, scoring 10 points, including two triples from Thompson, to gain a 52-49 lead with 16:22 remaining. Coleman responded for Michigan, finding his stroke and hitting back-to-back triples to help the Wolverines to a 55-53 edge.
The Wolverines found themselves in a scoring drought, as UCLA racked up two three-point plays to gain a six-point advantage (63-57) with 9:29 to go. Key free throws from Harris and another triple from Coleman kept Michigan within striking distance before a put-back from Sims put the Maize and Blue on top, 66-65. The lead would trade hands a couple more times before Michigan built up their 9-2 run to gain their biggest advantage of the contest.
Michigan takes a 11-day break before returning to action Wednesday, Dec. 29, at home against Delaware State. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Crisler Arena.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423