On a night when the perimeter game wasn't clicking for the Michigan Wolverines, senior big man Courtney Sims stood tall. The 6-11 center teamed with frontcourt mate Brent Petway to carry the Maize and Blue to a 66-59 victory despite a lackluster first half.
The scoring fortunes initially looked bright for the home team. Petway and Sims helped get the Wolverines off to a quick start, scoring the first two buckets on a game opening 8-0 run. UW-Milwaukee soon countered, though, thanks to their long range marksmanship (5/7 from deep in the first half). Three-point baskets by Kevin Massiah and Paige Paulsen sparked a 10-2 run for the visitors that tied the score at 10 with 15:18 left in the half. The brisk scoring pace slowed down after that, but the Wolverines still managed to push the lead back to six at the 8:55 mark on a Dion Harris lay-up. However, the tide turned when Petway was hit with two fouls ten seconds apart, forcing him to head to the bench. The Panthers capitalized on the absence of Michigan's energizer, outscoring the Maize & Blue 15-7 down the stretch to take a 27-25 lead into the halftime locker room.
With the offense clearly not clicking on all cylinders, the players knew that more energy and hustle would be required in the second half if they were going gut out the victory. "We had to be tougher," Petway said regarding the improvement his team needed to make in the second half. "They were getting all the loose balls. That is something we pride ourselves on -- being the toughest team and winning the hustle, and they were kind of beating us on that. We had to get defensive boards and give those little bumps. If somebody blocked a shot, we had to be the team to go get it. We knew we just needed to get tougher for the last part of the game."
The Panthers opened up the second half with a 7-2 run to build their largest lead of the game (34-29), but Petway and Sims stepped forth to answer. The post tandem scored four points apiece on a 12-0 run that put the home team up 41-34 with 13:06 remaining. UW-Milwaukee would threaten again, cutting the lead to one with just under ten minutes to go, but they would never regain the lead. Sims simply overpowered the Panthers down the stretch, scoring 14 of his 20 second half points to close the half. The Boston native led all scorers with 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds. He was joined in the double-double club by Brent Petway, who finished with 13 points and 11 boards.
"I just did not want to lose," Sims said regarding his determined effort. "In the past we went through some stuff, like losing to Boston University and how that affected is making it into the tournament. I thought about that at halftime and really did not want to lose. I just wanted to do whatever I could so I would not have any regrets tomorrow. I missed a few shots in the beginning that I would usually make and we were not getting rebounds. Brent (Petway) picked it up on the glass and was in foul trouble for much of the game. He played clutch and had some big blocks and that really helped us."
The Wolverines will hit the hardwood again Friday night when they take on Harvard. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 PM at Crisler Arena.