Cagers fend off
late rally, secure
By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
Though last night was Michigan's first postsea-
son game in four years, its play in the contest's
first 30 minutes did little to distinguish itself
from the other 29 games the Wolverines have
played this season.
But the last 10 minutes did.
The Wolverines came from behind to defeat
Missouri last night 65-64 in the first round of
the National Invitational
Tournament, overcoming an MiCHIGAN 65
eight-point second-half s 64
deficit and an eight-minute
offensive drought. Michigan will play the winner
of tonight's Sugar Bowl rematch between Okla-
homa and Louisiana State. The official date and
time have yet to be determined.
"They showed maturity, they showed tough-
ness, they grew a tremendous amount tonight,"
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "When you
get a chance to battle back and fight through
some adversity and win a game like that, that
speaks volumes of what this team is capable of
After falling down 48-40 with 10 minutes
remaining, the Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 19-11
overall) uncharacteristically fought back to take a
four-point lead with 3:28 remaining. Missouri
senior center Arthur Johnson scored to tie the
game at 59, but Michigan sophomore center
Chris Hunter got two offensive rebounds off free
throws to set up the game's winning baskets.
Hunter pulled down his first following sopho-
more forward Graham Brown's second consecu-
tive miss and laid the ball back in to give
Michigan a 61-59 lead.
Following a defensive stop, Bernard Robinson
missed the front end of a one-and-one, but
Hunter pulled down another board. This allowed
freshman guard Dion Harris to extend the
advantage to 63-59 after being fouled away from
Former Detroit Renaissance guard Rickey
Paulding hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to
bring the game to 63-62. But Daniel Horton
drove down the lane through three Tiger defend-
ers to extend the score to 65-62 with 11 seconds
* With gutsy NIT victory,
Blue proves me wrong
Days of Thunder
I'll admit it. I didn't believe them.
At least in my mind, playing in the
NIT was like going to the prom with
Britney Spears' cousin. It's nice. But
it really doesn't come close to the
So when I went down to Crisler
Arena on Monday and listened to player
after player tell me that they were excit-
ed to play in college basketball's sec-
ond-best postseason tournament (out of
two), I was skeptical.
Sure, they had to say that, I thought.
But it's only the NIT. I thought back to
when Georgetown declined its invite
to the 2002 NIT so that its players
could go to class. I found it hard to
believe that the Wolverines were as
motivated to win the thing as they
made it seem.
But Michigan proved me wrong. It
pulled out a gutsy win last night. And
everyone from rows one through three
whose drink was spilled by one of the
many diving Wolverines knows how
badly the team wanted it.
Just watching the game, you would-
n't have known that Sunday night the
players gathered on campus with a
hope of getting into the NCAA Tour-
nament, only to learn that they weren't
going to reach their season-long goal.
The NIT was the team's first postsea-
son appearance since 1999-00. But it
wasn't what the Wolverines were
Yet they stepped out onto the floor
last night and played like everything
was still on the line.
"We had to play right away,"said
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker of the
team's quick turnaround between
games. "So we didn't have time to think
about it or feel sorry for ourselves about
the other tournament."
Daniel Horton was the poster boy
for that effort. With less than 30 sec-
onds remaining, the sophomore
guard laid the ball in to put his team
up three and came down in pain. He
struggled up the floor, stumbling
once or twice on his injured leg, and
then he actually jumped into the pile
under the Missouri rim at the other
end of the floor to tip a loose ball to
senior Bernard Robinson.
He could barely walk off the court
during the ensuing dead ball. But the
pain didn't stop him from putting him-
self on the line when his team needed a
rebound. Even if it was just the NIT.
"We pride ourselves on getting loose
balls," forward Brent Petway said. "We
know that those can lead to big plays."
Yeah, the Wolverines did give up a
20-3 run in the second half and allowed
a nine-point lead to become an eight-
point deficit. I couldn't help but think
about some of the other second-half
lapses that have doomed the Wolverines
this year (see Minnesota, Michigan
State, to name a few).
But Michigan hustled its way back in
the last 10 minutes, when it could have
just as easily have rolled over and let
things get out of hand.
"There's a lot of teams that aren't
playing right now, so it's not that hard to
get motivated," Petway said.
Playing at home didn't hurt either.
The crowd at Crisler Arena wasn't huge,
but it was loud. Michigan has always
seemed much more comfortable at
home this year, anyway.
If the team keeps playing as hard as it
did last night, it could go deep into this
In the end, I guess I was wrong.
Maybe when you haven't been to a
prom in a number of years, it doesn't
really matter who you go with.
Dan Rosen can be reached at
Point guard Daniel Horton reacts to his game-winning shot in last night's victory. Horton had a team-high 20
points on 7-of-17 shooting.
remaining. Then Missouri guard Tommy McKin-
ney missed a 3-pointer, forcing Johnson to score
a layup with just a tenth of a second left. That
completed the comeback win for a Michigan
team that has collapsed in the second half numer-
ous times this season.
"In the second half, we've let a lot of leads go
and have not been able to come back from
them," Robinson said. "It showed our courage
today when we were able to come back and get
Although the Wolverines couldn't handle
Johnson's size and strength inside, as he finished
with 26 points and 10 rebounds, they amassed a
nine-point lead early in the second half via hot
shooting by Horton and Harris. But, like many
times this season, the duo went cold, and so did
the Wolverines. While neither Horton nor Harris
could score, Missouri went on a second-half 20-
3 run with Michigan's only field goal coming
from a Brent Petway putback dunk.
But the Wolverines rallied behind one of the
loudest, albeit small, crowds at Crisler Arena
this season. Crisler will most likely host
Michigan's second-round game if Louisiana
State wins, because Baton Rouge hosts NCAA
Women's Tournament games starting this
"I didn't expect the crowd to be like that,"
Hunter said. "We have to thank our fans for
coming out, and the student section was
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