Senior Day couldn't have gotten off to a better start for the Maize and Blue Saturday afternoon. After a teary-eyed Tommy Amaker joined the crowd in thanking the members of his first recruiting class in an emotional pre-game ceremony, he put a unit on the floor comprised of Daniel Horton, Hayes Grooms, Sherrod Harrell, Graham Brown, and Amadou Ba. The senior quintet brought energy on both ends of the court, powering the Wolverines to 5-0 lead right out of the gates. When the regular starting lineup took over moments later, Horton connected on his second three-pointer to spur an 8-3 run to push the lead to nine. That's when Mike Davis' squad began to inch back.
Indiana big man Marco Killingsworth started to punish the Michigan on the boards,
grabbing six offensive rebounds and muscling in nine points in the first half.
The Hoosiers also began to warm up from long range, connecting on three triples
in the latter part of the half to balance the inside attack. When the halftime
buzzer sounded, the visitors went into the locker room down only three-points,
The Wolverines got off to another quick start after the break, thanks again to their seniors. Brown and Horton combined for seven points to fuel a 9-2 run that gave the home team an early 39-29 lead. But as was the case in the first half, Indiana was there with an answer.
The Hoosiers employed a half court trap in an attempt to keep the ball out of the hands of Daniel Horton and make the Wolverines get into their offense late in the shot clock. The pressure bothered Michigan all game, forcing them into 12 second half turnovers, and 24 for the game. That defensive intensity helped create high percentage opportunities on the other end for the Indiana, igniting a 14-3 run that gave the visitors their first lead of the game, (43-42), with 11:41 remaining.
After Marshall Strickland pushed Indiana's lead to six with his second three-pointer, Amaker's bunch finally broke out of their slump. A coast to coast lay-up from Horton started another run, and Dion Harris capped it off with a three pointer to regain the lead 52-50.
After exchanging leads over the next few minutes, the Wolverines held a three point advantage with 2:06 remaining. Robert Vaden quickly erased that deficit with a clutch three pointer from the corner to tie the score at 62. After Horton gave the Wolverines the lead again with two of his thirteen made free throws on the game, Killingsworth countered with a big-time move on the wing; a cross-over dribble followed by a pull-up from the elbow to again knot the score.
Horton had an opportunity to put the Wolverines up again with about thirty seconds to go, but he was bodied as he attempted a runner from the baseline. The contact caused an errant shot that hit the side of the backboard. When the Hoosiers go the rebound, Harris attempted to make a play for the ball but fouled Earl Calloway as he began to race up-court.
Calloway converted one of two from the line, giving the Wolverines another chance to take the lead on a made basket, but it was not to be. Horton again attacked the basket drawing the Hoosier defense, but this time he kicked it out. Dion Harris was the recipient, but instead of taking the jumper, he dribble in closer and attempt a baseline runner that rimmed out.
The Hoosiers converted two more free throws after being fouled with 2.1 seconds left, leaving yet another glimmer of hope for the home team. Their chances were dashed, though, when Graham Brown's attempt at a full-court inbounds pass hit the scoreboard speakers.
"It is tough to win with some many turnovers," Amaker said afterward. "Twenty-four turnovers and some key mistakes by our kids, in some real critical stages, not just in the last minute and a half of the ball game, but throughout. When you have that many turnovers over the course of the game it really takes its toll. They turn it over 20 times, we turn it over 24. It wasn't a pretty game from that stand point. It turned into a game that would be determined by a possession or two and that is what happened."
On the game Horton led all scores with 34 points. Graham Brown chipped in with 10 points and nine rebounds. Killingsworth led four Hoosiers in double figures with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Amaker pointed to the lack of balance offensively as another contributing factor to the defeat. "We certainly need some better production from other players. We can't rely on just one or two players to do the bulk of the scoring for us. They (Indiana) had four players in double figures, which was a good balance for them. For us, we have to have something from (Courtney) Sims and (Dion) Harris. Those are the two players that are capable of scoring for us."
With Saturday's loss Michigan finished the regular season 18-9 overall and
8-8 in conference, giving them the 7th-seed in the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Next up for the Maize and Blue is a match-up with 10th-seeded Minnesota Thursday
at 2:30 at Conseco Field House.