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Irish creamed

Daily Sports Writer
Published December 6, 2004

Slow shooting held back Michigan junior Daniel Horton throughout the first half of Saturday’s matchup against No. 20 Notre Dame, and sophomore Courtney Sims could see that his typically clutch teammate could use a pick-me-up. As the Wolverines took the court for the second half, Sims told the forlorn Horton, “You’re going to win this game for us.”

And in many ways, he did.

With just 20 seconds remaining, and his team down 60-58, Horton drove in for a layup on a slingshot pass from freshman Ron Coleman. The shot dropped, and Horton drew a foul from Notre Dame’s Dennis Latimore. He stepped up to the line with collected confidence, sank his free throw and clinched the game for the Wolverines.

Michigan (4-3) edged out Notre Dame (3-1) 61-60 at home on Saturday, and in doing so, managed to kill two birds with one stone. The Wolverines picked up their first win against a ranked opponent and found a support in backcourt second-stringers who had career performances.

But it was Horton’s contributions at critical moments that gave Michigan the late-game surge it needed to pull ahead.

“We’ve seen him do this before here,” coach Tommy Amaker said of Horton. “We’ve seen him kind of will his way and will our team. I think that’s the player he’s become in this program.”

Horton’s efforts might have been in vain if not for sophomore Brent Petway. With the chance to put the Wolverines up by three in the last four seconds, Petway missed the front-end of the one-and-one, allowing Notre Dame the chance to snatch the rebound. The Irish’s Chris Thomas had just crossed half court and was ready to put up a jumper, when Petway, who trailed Thomas, shot out in front of him and cleanly blocked the shot as the buzzer sounded.

“If I had dwelled on missing the free throw — put my head down — Chris Thomas probably would have gotten a wide-open look,” Petway said. “You just have to make up for it some way or another. So I just ran back … I knew he was looking to shoot it because he didn’t even look like he wanted to pass.”

The score was tied at 30 at the onset of the second frame. But within the first 10 minutes, the Irish jumped out to a 51-41 lead after an 8-0 scoring run. It was Horton who brought a halt to the Wolverines’ drought, nailing Michigan’s first bucket in nearly five minutes. He was also, essentially, the lone scorer in the final 5:44 of the game, draining two 3-pointers and another field goal. While these shots allowed him to carry Michigan almost single-handedly, it was in the waning moments of the game that Horton showed Crisler Arena why Sims felt compelled to spark his confidence.

The victory came as a relief for a Michigan team that had dropped three straight games prior to Saturday, and needed a win to get its season back on the right track.

“we lost that one on Tuesday, it was embarrassing,” Horton said. “But we knew we had to come around and be ready to play because Notre Dame is another good team.”

Michigan’s first-half stats looked as if they had come out of the basketball twilight zone. Coleman topped his eight career points with 10 in the 10 minutes he spent on the court in the first half. He was the leading scorer in the first frame, and kept the Wolverines afloat while more prominent players struggled to find their bearings.

“I thought his play in the first half was critical,” Amaker said of Coleman. “We finally had some more offensive production from someone on the perimeter other than players like Daniel (Horton) and Dion (Harris). It takes a lot of pressure off our offense.”

John Andrews, the sophomore walk-on turned starter, also did his fair share in the peculiar first half. He scored four points, grabbed a rebound and notched an assist.

Michigan also managed to shut down the Irish’s standout guards Chris Quinn and Chris Thomas. Thomas shot 1-for-13 from the floor, while Quinn went just 2-for-11, due largely to blanketing defense from Horton and Harris.

Tri-captain Graham Brown’s also exhibited tight defense and aggressive rebounding. He grabbed eight rebounds on the afternoon, the most notable of which occurred when he threw a rebound to Harris while falling to the ground. Harris launched it to Coleman, who drew a foul in a dunk attempt, and made one of his subsequent free throws, bringing the Wolverines within two with less than two minutes left on the clock.

“I went out there and played as hard as I could,” Brown said. “I got a couple of easy baskets down low, and did whatever I could to help the team.”