ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With the help of a trio of freshmen, the University of Michigan men's basketball team got back on the winning track with a 62-50 victory against Army Thursday (Dec. 28) at Crisler Arena. Led by freshmen Reed Baker (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS), Ekpe Udoh (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe HS) and DeShawn Sims (Detroit, Mich./Pershing HS), the Wolverines (12-2) balanced a solid inside presence with timely perimeter shooting to maintain control and take the victory from the Black Knights.
All three of the Michigan freshmen set career bests in numerous categories, with Baker leading the way in scoring for U-M with a career-best 19 points. Baker brought the crowd to its feet by hitting all five of his field goals from beyond the three-point arc and adding 4-for-4 from the charity stripe and a career-best four rebounds in 29 minutes.
Udoh was a dominating force on the boards, nearly becoming just the second player in Wolverine history to reach double-digit blocks in a single game as he finished with nine blocked shots. He added eight points, seven rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes of action.
Sims was U-M's other double-digit scorer, putting together an all-around game with his inside presence and ball-handling ability. He posted 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting in addition to eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 29 minutes.
In a twist to open the game for the Wolverines, the Maize and Blue began the game with an entirely new starting lineup as freshmen Baker, Sims and Udoh along with sophomores Jerret Smith (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) and Jevohn Shepherd (Toronto, Ontario, Canada/West Hills Collegiate) tipped off the game for Michigan.
The new opening group of Wolverines showed some early nerves but helped control the pace of the game for the first seven minutes as the Wolverines built a small three-point lead, 11-8. The young frontcourt of Sims, who had seven points and three rebounds, and Udoh, who had four and two blocks, produced all 11 of U-M's early first-half points.
With 12:48 to go in the first half, Michigan subbed in its normal starting lineup of seniors Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS), Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS), Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) and Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) and junior Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS). As the game continued to go back and forth, the Wolverines and Black Knights exchanged baskets in an early tight affair.
At the 8:08 mark, Army struck again with an outside jumper and took its first lead of the game, 17-15, but the Wolverines quickly responded with a bucket on the other end by Petway to tie the game at 17 after a rebound and putback. As the young starting lineup re-entered the game, the Maize and Blue took advantage as any signs of early nerves subsided. The duo of Baker and DeShawn Sims helped the Wolverines go on a 12-3 run to build a 12-point lead with two minutes left in the half.
Army's only response in the first half was guard Jarell Brown, who scored 15 of the Black Knights' 25 points on 6-of-10 shooting with three long-range buckets. As the half came to a close, the Wolverine were able to maintain their double-digit lead as a desperation toss with the clock running out by Smith fell in to give U-M a 13-point, 38-25 at the half.
The second half continued to be a showcase for the young freshmen as Baker heated up from the outside, DeShawn Sims helped control the boards, and Udoh provided the defensive presence down low with his blocks.
The Wolverines got a rise out of the crowd as they made play after play to keep Army from mounting any sort of comeback. After the Black Knights scored five straight points to cut the lead to eight, Michigan went on an 8-0 run led by Baker, who hit back-to-back triples to give himself five on the evening and give U-M a 51-34 lead.
Though things cooled down for Michigan in terms of scoring over the next four minutes, a two-point shot by Udoh and an electrifying triple from Harris helped keep a distance from the Black Knights before U-M's sound free throw shooting came into play to officially secure the 62-50 victory.
The Wolverines will close out the 2006 non-conference schedule against Georgetown, Saturday (Dec. 30) at Crisler Arena. It will mark the first time that the two programs will meet on the hardwood. The noon game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423