The Michigan Wolverines had already faced a number of tests on their way to a 4-0 record in the young basketball season, but their road match-up with the Notre Dame fighting Irish Saturday afternoon would be their toughest to date. The Maize and Blue got off to another slow offensive start, which caused them to fall behind early. A 9-0 run put Mike Brey's squad up by seven, (9-2), at the 14:03 mark.
The Wolverines finally started to get on track offensively when Daniel Horton drew the defense and found a wide open Ronald Coleman in the left corner for three. That triple sparked a 9-4 run that evened things up at 13 with 8:47 left in the half. The two teams continued to trade blows the rest of the way and went into the locker room knotted at 27.
Michigan's shaky first half was eerily similar to way they started out in a couple of their previous contests. They were able to overcome those shortcomings with strong second half performances. Two seniors would make sure the game against the Irish would be no different.
The difference in efficiency was immediately apparent, as the Maize and Blue scored 16 points in the first five minutes after emerging from the locker room. Horton scored seven of those points to help his team to a 43-38 lead. The Irish were up to the challenge, though, as big men Torrin Francis and Luke Zeller came right back to score Notre Dame's next eight points (three of which came on Zeller's 2nd three-pointer of the game) to tie the score at 46.
Horton managed to fend the home team off by scoring four of Michigan's next six to re-take a 52-48 lead with 9:12 left, but the advantage was short-lived. Irish guard Chris Quinn came alive at the right time, exploding for 13 straight points over a four-minute stretch. That outburst put the Irish up 65-60 with just 2:58 left to go in the game. That's when another Michigan senior stepped to the fore to answer the bell for his team.
Graham Brown got three points right back for the Maize and Blue when he made a strong move on the block for an and-1 to cut the lead to two. Quinn then collected consecutive points 14 and 15 from the charity stripe to increase the margin back to four, but Brown was right there again with an answer. Another big lay-up chopped the deficit to two, before a huge tip in of a Courtney Sims miss the next time down the floor tied it up at 67 with 1:07 to go
The Irish attempted to re-take the lead with another three-point bomb from Zeller, but the shot missed the mark and Brown corralled the rebound. Michigan headman Tommy Amaker called a full timeout to draw up a play for Horton, but when the Wolverines hit the floor the Irish ran two defenders at him. That, however, proved to be a mistake as calmly found Dion Harris on the left baseline for a wide-open jumper. The Detroit native buried the 18-footer to put the Wolverines up by two, 69-67, with 18 ticks remaining on the clock.
According to Amaker, the execution on that play was a product of great teamwork. "[That comes from] being unselfish, but also having the trust and also the knowledge of the game situation," he said. "We wanted it in Daniel's hands and they really kind of came at him with another player. It was just an incredible play by him in a moment where the game was winding down, the game was on the line, and then Dion Harris steps up and makes a huge basket for us. But it all started with Horton out front making the right decision at a critical time."
The Irish had one more chance to tie it up, but a Quinn runner in the lane rimmed out. Lester Abram then grabbed the rebound and nailed two free throws after being fouled to ice the 71-67 victory.
"We didn't [panic], and I think it's indicative of having a veteran team and, more specifically, guys like Daniel Horton and Graham Brown," Amaker said regarding how his team responded to being down. "Not just with points, but with their presence, their toughness, their character out on the floor and how they just battled every possession. You can't ask for more when you're going on the road against a really good ball club. I'm just really impressed with our kids. How we hung in there, we battled, we stayed tough, and we made plays down the stretch. We can go down the list of a number of players who did really good things for us. It was a great team win against another really good basketball team who gave us their best shot."
Horton led four Wolverines in double figures with 19 points and seven assists, while Brown chimed in with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Notre Dame's Chris Quinn led all scorers with 26. For more on the game, click the following links: Boxscore, Notes & Quotes, Photos.
Michigan is now 5-0 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season and will next hit the hardwood Wednesday night at Crisler arena versus Delaware State.