"We always talk about deserving things and the team that won tonight deserved
to win," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "I thought they played
exceptional basketball from tap to buzzer. They got out of the blocks early,
put us on our heels and we were fighting an uphill battle the whole way. That
was not a good sign going against that team, especially with the way they played
down the stretch of the season."
As Amaker indicated, the Gamecocks set the tone in the game very early. Their
first two baskets came on lay-ups, and they would continue to punish the Wolverines
with dribble penetration that led to easy baskets for the entire game. Michigan
was down 10-2 at the 15:33 mark before they finally managed to put together
back-to-back baskets for the first time to close the deficit to four.
South Carolina responded by continuing its basket assault, converting their
next five field goals from point-blank range. Two of their three dunks as well
as lay-up came courtesy of semifinal hero Renaldo Balkman. When the dust settled,
the Gamecocks had pushed the score to 20-10.
Dave Odom's squad still held on to a ten-point advantage, (24-14), at the 8:33
mark when Michigan managed its first run of the night. Daniel Horton and Brent Petway started things off with a lay-up and dunk respectively, and Ronald Coleman
capped things off with a three-pointer in transition to get the Wolverines within
three, (24-21) with 6:06 to go. The Wolverines looked poised to stay in the
game for good, but a physical altercation between Petway and Balkman was all
South Carolina needed to get back on track.
On Michigan's next possession, Petway went up for a lay-up in the paint only
to have Balkman swat it for one of his five blocks on the evening. When Balkman
came down with the rebound he began to swing his elbows wildly, catching Petway
in the mouth and drawing blood. The foul went uncalled and the Wolverines junior
forward took matters into his own hands, shoving Balkman to the floor and getting
whistled for an intentional foul.
The fracas fired up both teams, but it South Carolina that turned that emotion
into production. They closed the half on a 13-6 run and went into the locker
room with a 39-27 lead.
South Carolina continued its offensive onslaught after the intermission, this
time attacking from deep. Three early three-pointers from Gamecock guard Tre Kelley helped them pushed their lead to 17 points, (47-30). Daniel Horton tried
to strap his team on his back, nailing two triples of his own on his way to
scoring eight of the Wolverines next ten points to cut the lead to 12, but they
would never seriously threaten again. The Gamecocks built the lead to as many
as eighteen before rolling on to the 76-64 victory.
"I thought the lead they were able to get on us early was the difference,"
Amaker said. "The balance they had in their scoring, we didn't do a good
job guarding off the dribble and I thought the plays they were able to make
against us were key moments, especially when they knocked it away from us and
we turned it over. Those are those momentum plays, when they get dunks and offensive
tip-in dunks. Even though it seemed very even on the stat sheet, that is where
stats can be very misleading when you try to evaluate a game. It was a 20-point
game at one point, but we scratched and clawed to get back into it, but they
held strong and certainly earned this victory."
On the game Tarence Kinsey led three Gamecock players in double figures with
21 points, while Renaldo Balkman chipped in with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and
five blocks. Daniel Horton paced the Wolverines with 18 points and four assists.
For more on the contest, click the following links. Boxscore,
With his last game as a Wolverine now in the books, Horton expressed disappointment
in the way his team finished but confidence in what the future holds. "I
am hurting, Horton said. "We lost in the championship game of a tournament
that was very important to us. I think we played hard and left it all on the
court. As far as it being our last game, we came up short, but I have always
said, everything doesn't always go your way in life. We will handle this. We
will bounce back as seniors and the team will bounce back as a program as well."