It’s amazing what a visit from Penn State can do for a
struggling team.

Kate Green
SHUBRA OHRI/Daily
Penn State guard Marlon Smith drives against Michigan forwards Bernard Robinson and Brent Petway.

Fresh off two difficult road losses, Michigan took full
advantage of a visit from the hapless Nittany Lions and cruised to
a 76-53 victory.

The first game of a critical four-game homestand, last
night’s victory was essential for the Wolverines.

“It felt like it’s been a long time since
we’ve actually won one,” Michigan guard Daniel Horton
said. “I mean, we only lost two in a row. But it feels great
to get this one, and now we’ve got to get ready for Wisconsin
on Sunday.”

Up just six, 35-29, a minute into the second half, Michigan (5-6
Big Ten, 14-8 overall) began to assert itself on the defensive end.
Increased defensive pressure allowed the Wolverines to turn up the
tempo on offense, leading to several easy baskets and a 29-11 run
that would span the next 10 minutes.

Senior Bernard Robinson set the pace for Michigan throughout its
second-half surge. The veteran played one of his most complete
games of the season, notching 11 points, eight assists and seven
rebounds.

Robinson began the Michigan spurt with an impressive play,
knocking the ball loose, then out-hustling four Nittany Lions to
come up with a steal. He quickly pushed the Wolverines into
transition, finishing the sequence with a no-look pass to guard
Lester Abram for an uncontested layup.

Robinson sunk a 3-pointer two minutes later, and followed that
up with yet another no-look setup to Abram, who drained a three of
his own. At that point, Michigan led 45-31, and the rout was
on.

“I told our players that Bernard really set the tone for
us in the second half,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
“He really looked to make the extra pass. He was our catalyst
in the second half.”

Robinson and the Wolverines were able to push the ball up the
court thanks in no small part to their defense.

With the Nittany Lions more or less limited to two guards, Ben
Luber and Marlon Smith, the Wolverines kept full-court pressure on
the ball for most of the game. In the face of this effort, Penn
State (3-8, 9-13) turned the ball over 16 times and shot just 34
percent from the floor.

Despite leading Penn State with 19 points, Smith was also the
most careless of the Nittany Lions, serving up seven turnovers.

Penn State’s leading scorer, Jan Jagla, as has become the norm
in his visits to Ann Arbor, was unable to find his groove,
finishing 3-for-12 from the floor with 10 points.

“It was a team defensive effort,” Amaker said. “We had some
trouble trying to guard (Penn State forward) Aaron Johnson (who
finished with 11 points) in the paint, but I thought we wore them
down.”

Horton was a huge part of the solid all-around effort from the
Wolverines. The sophomore hit for 11 points while chipping in five
assists, and playing solid defense, holding Luber to seven
points.

Abram and center Courtney Sims also reached double digits in
points, finishing with 16 and 13, respectively. Sims finished a
perfect 6-for-6 from the floor and pulled down seven rebounds.

Regardless of the quality of opponent, the result was exactly
what a floundering Michigan team was looking for, especially with
No. 12 Wisconsin – the Big Ten’s top team – coming to Ann Arbor on
Sunday.

“We needed a win,” Amaker said. “The medicine for us was to play
well and win.”

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