With Lester Abram out of the lineup for the second consecutive game and Daniel Horton playing on a sore foot, Tommy Amaker's club was hoping for offensive contributions from other sources Saturday afternoon. Despite the ups and downs Dion Harris and Courtney Sims have experienced this year, the Wolverines knew their two talented juniors could provide just what they were looking for. A concerted effort was made to get each player going early, and that's exactly what happened.
Sims aggressively fought for position and his teammates rewarded him with the basketball, resulting in two consecutive baskets early in the game. Then it was Harris's turn to strike. The former Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan warmed up on the outside, scoring the Wolverines' next six points on a couple of three pointers to put the his squad up 12-7 at the 16:49 mark.
"My teammates were giving me shots," Harris said. "I did not have a very good shooting game last game, so I really wanted to come out and correct that and turn things around for myself and they helped me. Graham set a few screens for me, Daniel got me the ball, and everyone was getting me the ball today. I just had to step up and knock down shots."
Harris continued his marksmanship from deep moments later when he and Ronald Coleman teamed up for back to back triples to give Michigan a 20-11 lead. The Badgers soon knifed into that advantage, though, when Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker chimed in with six points apiece to score the 12 of the Wisconsin's next 14 points to make the score 30-25 with 2:55 left in the half.
Michigan cut the comeback attempt short when Daniel Horton and Chris Hunter teamed up to score all of home team's points on an 8-2 run that culminated in a baseline jumper from Hunter as time expired. That bucket sent the Maize and Blue into the locker room up 38-27.
When the Wolverines re-emerged in the second half, they started off much the same way they did in the first. Courtney Sims was again a man on a mission, controlling the paint early and scoring the Michigan's first six points after the intermission. Harris then followed with two buckets of his own to maintain an 11 point lead (48-37) at the 15:33 mark.
After Harris pushed Michigan's lead to 14 with his fifth three pointer of the afternoon, the game looked to be headed towards a blowout. That's when the Badgers began relentlessly firing away from the outside. Wisconsin made four straight three's (two of which came from Kammron Taylor) to get within six with 2:17 remaining on the clock.
Taylor continued his one man assault down the stretch, nailing two more three pointers en route to ten consecutive points in the games waning moments, but that proved to be not enough. Daniel Horton continued his torrid free throw shooting, going 8/8 from the line to close the game and send Bo Ryan's club home in defeat.
Horton's ten free throws on the afternoon raised his Big Ten streak of 38 consecutive makes. He finished the game with 14 points and five assists, while Harris and Sims led the way for the Wolverines with 23 and 18 respectively. Meanwhile, Kammron Taylor led the Badgers with 29. For more on the game click the following links; Boxscore, Notes, Quotes, Photos.
After the contest, Amaker was pleased with the effort of Harris and Sims, and proud of what his team has been able to accomplish while having to weather through injuries. "Those two juniors…if we can continue to get strong contributions from those two guys…we think that we have the makings of a pretty darn good team right now," Amaker said. "With their performances here this afternoon, you can see the difference that they make. Daniel [Horton]'s hobbling a little bit, his foot is giving him some problems, I'm not sure what all that is right now, [and] with Lester [Abram] being out, having Courtney and Dion step forward and carry the load for us offensively really meant a lot. I can't say enough about our kids about fighting through some adverse situations and finding ways and staying positive. These kids right now are believing; they're giving their heart and soul wearing that uniform for the University of Michigan and we're very proud to be in first place. But we certainly know it can be a very short-lived opportunity, but we're hoping to extend it."
The Wolverines (15-3, 5-2) are tied with three other teams for first in the Big Ten. They will seek to defend their place atop the conference Wednesday when they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.