Lester Abram sat dejectedly on the bench in street clothes – "bored" more than anything, he said – while Daniel Horton showed up out of uniform for a half before leaving for an MRI on his injured knee. Graham Brown’s family took their usual seats in the stands, but “Moose” was nowhere to be found, recovering from hernia surgery. In their place, former backups Chris Hunter, John Andrews and even Dani Wohl, who registered 30 minutes, stepped up to lead Michigan to a 67-53 win over High Point Tuesday night at Crisler Arena.
And it was a fight most of the way. That’s how it will probably be at least until Horton gets back into the lineup – and that’s assuming results of his MRI are negative. With tougher games coming up against South Florida and Boston University, U-M will need more of the same from Hunter, who was aggressive in scoring a career-high 22 points on 9-of-12 field goals, and simply more from Dion Harris, who struggled to a 3-of-13 showing from the floor that included a goose egg – 0-for-7 – from three-point range.
On this night, though, Hunter’s spark was enough. Starting in place of Courtney Sims, benched by Tommy Amaker because he wasn’t playing to his coach’s expectations, Hunter became the aggressor from the outset. He scored Michigan’s first seven points, even sandwiching a triple between two solid hoops in the paint, nine of U-M’s first 11 and 13 of the Wolverines’ first 20. He reached his career high (13) with 7:13 remaining in the first half, using his height to his advantage in the post.
“I thought he was very focused,” said Amaker. “I think he knew out of the blocks that we needed him to command the middle for us and control the paint on both ends of the floor. I think it’s a great point that if you watch a person with how he receives the ball, that says a lot, and he really went after the basketball and set the tone.”
With Harris a foot short (and sometimes two) on his jumper for most of the night, the Wolverines struggled to find scorers. Sims, who played just six minutes in the first half, scored U-M’s final 10 points to finish with 12 but wasn’t a factor offensively for most of the game.
Andrews, however, was. He contributed 10 points, hitting two triples in 29 minutes, and provided some of U-M’s better assists in setting up Hunter and others for easy looks after driving into the lane. He added two steals and four rebounds, looking much more comfortable than he did in Preseason NIT action weeks ago.
The key, Andrews said, was simply remembering that he’s been a basketball player for most of his life – and a good one.
“I do get more confidence [each game],” he said. “Every game I’m out there I get a better feel for the game. It’s different because last year I didn’t play that much so I am trying to find my role and niche on the team. As I play and get more time, I get more comfortable out there.”
“We are not surprised; we’re pleased,” added Amaker. “We always thought that he was a solid basketball player and were pleased that he decided he wanted to be at Michigan instead of accepting basketball scholarships to other universities. We always thought he was going to be able to help us at some point. We didn’t know if it would be this early in his career, but certainly we felt that he was going to be a quality player.”
High Point was able to keep it a single-digit game much of the way on the strength of its three-point shooting. The Panthers made six of their 14 attempts in the first half, led by Titus Byrd’s 4-for-5 effort, and nine-of-23 for the game. It was a five-point game (50-45) when Zione White hit his second consecutive triple at the 10:09 mark, at which point it appeared as though a 2-5 High Point squad might take U-M to the wire.
Harris, though, hit a jumper to start a 9-1 Michigan run that ultimately decided the game, and the Wolverines finally pulled away.
“We feel really good about this win,” said Amaker. “We talked to our players about this being a great team effort. We are a basketball team and we say that great teams have great teammates. I think we have great teammates in this locker room.”
·U-M was outrebounded 20-15 in the first half but finished with a 31-29 advantage on the boards.
·Brent Petway was being treated for what appeared to be abdominal cramping following the game.
·The results of Horton’s MRI should be known at some point Wednesday.