The prospect of a freshman backcourt may scare more than a few college coaches, but Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker has found a pair of freshmen that play well beyond their years. Point guard Daniel Horton and swingman Lester Abram have averaged a combined 25.8 points a game, and Saturday, the two had explosive games against Ohio State, combining for 38 points in the 70-54 win.
After what he considered a sub-par game against Indiana last Wednesday, Abram was determined to perform better against Ohio State.
“I didn’t really do anything at Bloomington, I only had three rebounds and 1-of-7 shooting, and I know I am a much better player than that,” Abram said. “I was determined to get off to a better start in this game.”
Abram’s determination paid a huge divident, as he had the hot hand early, scoring 10 of the team’s first 12 points in the first half. Abram also pounded the glass, pulling down five defensive rebounds in the first half alone. In the second half, the Buckeyes tried to shut down Abram on the offensive end of the floor. The added pressure helped free up his teammates who benefited from his passing.
“In the second half, I just tried to hit the open guy,” Abram said. “They were tyring to clamp down harder on me in the second half because I made a couple of shots in the first half. But I was just trying to find LaVell (Blanchard) and Daniel, and they were seemingly open a lot to my surprise.”
The smooth lefty finished with 17 points – including a 3-of-3 mark from behind the 3-point arc – and eight rebounds during a team-high 38 minutes. With junior forward Bernard Robinson confined to the bench with foul trouble, Abram shared the responsibility for guarding one of the Big Ten’s premier scorers, Brent Darby. Robinson and Abram are both 6-foot-6, and the added reach and strength helped contain the smaller Darby.
“I just tried to stay in front of him, not go for any head fakes, stay disciplined and keep a hand in his face,” Abram said. “He is going to shoot his shots, but you just have to make it a tough shot.”
Abram’s quick burst out of the gate was picked up by Horton. The sharp-shooting point guard showed his range and touch Saturday, connecting on 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and displaying the ability to hit both the long-range shot and the shot coming off a screen on the perimiter.
Horton also pulled up and pulled the trigger on several quick treys in transition. While the Buckeyes were scampering to get into a defensive position, Horton used the confusion to open himself up for a long-range shot.
“In the last few games, when we’d move the ball down the court, the defenders would get a head of steam and keep dropping back,” Horton said. “I just wanted to use that space to be able to pull up and hit the shot right there.”
The two have been an integral part of the Wolverines’ success this season. All this despite having to adjust from the high school game to the college game and being freshman to boot.
“They came here and they had to play like they were in sophmore or junior standing because we needed production out of them immediately,” fifth-year senior and tri-captain Rotolu Adebiyi said. “As you can see, they have stepped up to the challenge really well, and they have been really big for our team this year.”