The adversity laden 2004/2005 season finally came to an end for the Michigan Wolverines Thursday afternoon. The absences of Lester Abram and Daniel Horton (who was sentenced to two years probation and one year of counseling yesterday as a result of his guilty plea last month to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence), almost ensured a short stint in the Big Ten Tournament. The winner of today's opening game between Michigan and Northwestern would advance to play top ranked Illinois. After dropping the contest 58-56 to the Wildcats today, the Wolverines are not the ones moving on.
The Maize and Blue started out well, jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead. But as has been the case for much of the season (and was the case throughout the game), the Wolverines went through long cold spell shortly after. They went almost five minutes without scoring before Dion Harris finally ended the drought with a lay-up to take a 6-4 lead at the 14:23 mark.
The bucket seemed to ignite Harris, who continued his 8-0 spurt by scoring six more points on two three-pointers to push the lead to 12-4. Then another dry spell, this time four minutes in length, allowed the Wildcats to close the gap. An 8-0 run cut the lead to two before Courtney Sims stopped the bleeding with a lay-up with 8:13 remaining to make the score 14-10.
The Wildcats kept up their assault and cut the lead all the way down to a single point, but six straight points from Sims down the stretch sent the Wolverines to the locker room with a 26-20 advantage.
Coming out of the break, Bill Carmody's club started to re-apply the pressure right away, outscoring Michigan nine to four in the first four minutes to cut the lead to one (30-29). The Wildcats then grabbed the lead moments later on a three-pointer from Vedran Vukusic. Dion Harris nailed a jumper to knot the score at 32 and the two battled to a 39-39 tie with 11:19 to go. Harris then nailed another jumper to regain the lead, but that is the last one the Wolverines would have on the afternoon.
T.J. Parker scored six points to key a 12-0 run and give the Wildcats a ten point lead 51-41 with just over seven minutes left in the game. Dion Harris ended the nearly four minute scoreless streak with a three pointer, and minutes later the Wolverines made their final push.
Courtney Sims scored six straight points o a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to two points with 2:01 remaining. Northwestern's Michael Jenkins then gave the Wildcats a little cushion with a lay-up on the other end, but the Wolverines kept up the pressure. Sims again cut the lead to two with a couple of free throws, and the Wolverines were in position to grab the lead. Freshman Ronald Coleman ran off of a screen and launched a wide-open three-point attempt from the elbow, but missed with less than twenty seconds to go in the game. Michigan still had an opportunity to tie the score from the free throw line moments later, but Dion Harris converted only one of two attempts.
The Wolverines looked to foul on Northwestern's ensuing possession, but the Wildcats found TJ Parker streaking down court for a breakaway attempt. The Wildcat point guard was then intentionally fouled from behind by Dani Wohl. Parker then hit three of four free throws to secure the 58-56 victory for the Wildcats.
"It was a possession-by-possession game," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said afterward. "Both teams competed very hard. I am proud of the effort that our kids displayed. We were down by double digits and we really fought back and clawed our way into it. The turnover margin was one of the biggest things that worked against us, along with their ability to cash in when we did turn the ball over. I thought these three kids (Graham Brown, Courtney Sims, Dion Harris) played their hearts out. Courtney Sims may have played one of his better games since he has put on a Michigan uniform. We needed every bit of it."
Sims led the way for Michigan with 25 points and six rebounds while Dion Harris chipped in with 19 points and five assists. Mohamed Hachad led the Wildcats with 17 points and seven rebounds. For more on the game, click the following links: Boxscore, Notes, Quotes.
The Wolverines finished the season 13-18 overall and 4-12 in the Big Ten.