The rash of injuries that have beset the Michigan Wolverines of late can explain
away some to their recent on-court struggles. They do not, however, excuse the
effort that was put forth in Saturday's loss to the Purdue Boilermakers. The
team that went to West Lafayette wasn't one that Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker
recognized. Many of the players appeared to be down mentally do to the adverse
circumstances they were again faced with, and that seemed to affect them on
the court. Early in the second half of that contest Michigan's fifth year head
coach sat down many of his veteran players, signaling to them that there was
no room for them feeling sorry for themselves. After a few days of tough practice,
the question was, how would this team respond? Wednesday night versus the Gophers,
they answered the bell in a big way.
The Wolverines wanted to set the tone on defense early and Amaker inserted
Chris Hunter into the starting lineup in place of Courtney Sims to help do that.
That move proved to be beneficial, as did the home team's increased tenacity
on the defensive end of the floor. They smothered the Gophers offense, holding
them to eight points for the first 14 minutes of the contest.
Meanwhile, Amaker's bunch got of the gates fast on offense. Hunter and fellow
senior Daniel Horton sparked the Wolverines scoring 11 points apiece in the
first half to send Michigan into the locker room up 44-20.
"I thought that was the game plan for us, defending, rebounding and running,"
Amaker said. "I thought we did all three of those things in high fashion
and high gear. It certainly starts with our defensive energy and Daniel Horton
and Chris Hunter, in particular, really gave us a shot early in their respective
After the break, the Gophers gained a little momentum by jumping out on a 9-2
run to cut Michigan's lead to 17 at the 16:18 mark. That forced Amaker to call
a timeout to get his team back on track, and the brief meeting with his troops
did the trick. Horton stepped up for the Maize and Blue, scoring six straight
points on an 8-2 run to increase the lead back to 23, (54-31). From there the
Wolverines were never challenged and cruised to the 72-50, victory.
"[Minnesota] came right at us at the opening tip there," Amaker said
regarding the Gophers early second half outburst. "We certainly were trying
to get our guys geared up for the first four minutes of the second half. You
give them credit for not quitting. They came out fighting and we had to call
an early timeout. It is difficult though. I think those are the things you have
to respond to and I thought we responded very well after that timeout."
"Michigan really dictated both ends of the floor for an extended period
of time," Minnesota coach Dan Monson added. "For the first 10-12 minutes
the game really got out of control in a hurry. They pressured us and we did
not handle that very well on the defensive end. They dictated our shots and
their shots for the first 15 minutes of the game. I did not think we played
bad after that. I thought we did some things better to start the second half.
But it is a 40 minute game and we did not come prepared for the first 15. This
is the second time we have played them. These two games, and against Ohio State
we just did not contest shots. They dictated the shots against us better than
anybody besides Ohio State in the 11 games we have played so far."
On the game, Daniel Horton led three Wolverines in double figures with 21 points
and five assists. Vincent Grier paced the Gophers with 19 points respectively.
For more on the contest, click the following links: Boxscore,
After the much needed victory Horton expressed satisfaction with his team's
effort, but indicated that there was still room for improvement. "I think
that today we had a little more intensity and a little more hustle, but we have
still got to get better at getting loose balls," he said. "Especially
in the second half, there were a lot of loose balls and a lot of second-chance
opportunities that we were disappointed with. For the most part I think we played
pretty good defense."
The Wolverines will look to make it two in a row Saturday when the face off
with arch rival Michigan State in East Lansing. Tip-off is scheduled for 4pm.
Both Dion Harris and Jerret Smith suited up but did not play. After the game
Amaker revealed they were game time decisions.
"Coming into the game, we were hoping Dion could give us something tonight,
but as we found out it was probably he didn't play," he said. "As
the way things turned out it could be a big blessing for us not to have used
him tonight and still have a pretty gritty performance by our kids."
The doctors left it up to me," Harris added. "I tried it out and
I couldn't cut like I wanted to. I wasn't confident in my lateral movement.
But I'll be ready to go versus Michigan state. I'm looking forward to playing
Smith said he'll return to action Saturday as well. "I probably could
have played tonight if they needed me, but sitting out gave me a chance to rest
a little more," he said. "I just came back yesterday and I was terrible.
I didn't have my wind. I lost about 10 pounds and I'm down to 190. I'll be fine
for the Michigan State game though."
Lester Abram is not expected to play Saturday.