OXFORD – At Monday’s press conference, Michigan players said that getting handled by North Carolina State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge taught them what it takes to win away from Crisler Arena.

But early in the second half of last night’s 62-56 win over Miami (Ohio), it looked like Michigan could use a refresher course.

With their 10-point halftime lead (which at one point reached 18) cut to just two minutes into the second half, the Wolverines were in danger of failing yet another road test. Someone needed to step up. And on a team filled with experienced seniors, it was freshman Ekpe Udoh.

Playing extended minutes because of big men Courtney Sims and Brent Petway’s foul trouble, Udoh worked his way into the paint and banked in a shot while absorbing contact. The 6-foot-10 forward rattled home the following free throw to complete the three-point play – Michigan’s first tallies of the half. On the next possession, Udoh got loose in the lane for a follow-up tip, putting Michigan up 40-33.

Udoh’s efforts snapped the Wolverines out of their funk. Sims followed up with a bank shot down low, and senior Lester Abram sank two free throws after that to give Michigan an 11-point cushion.

“That was definitely one of the backbreakers for them,” Petway said of Udoh’s first shot. “Then, all of a sudden, we hold them scoreless and run off nine straight.”

The run quieted the pro-Miami crowd and gave the Wolverines the separation they needed to hold on for the win at Millett Hall.

Michigan’s defense was impressive – the Wolverines held the RedHawks to just 36 percent shooting – but its offense fell off in the second half. Michigan shot just more than 41 percent itself in the final frame, compared to a 52-percent performance in the first half, opening the door for a Miami comeback.

The Wolverines (9-1) were forced to deal with a final-minute barrage from the RedHawks before claiming their shaky victory on the road.

Sophomore Michael Bramos, who led the RedHawks with 22 points, hit two triples and a layup in the final 90 seconds to bring Miami (3-6) within five. After Dion Harris split a pair of free throws, Miami freshman Alex Moosmann cut the Wolverine lead to four. But that was as close as the RedHawks would get.

“To have an opportunity to win our first road game is significant for us,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “Any time during the course of the season, when you can go on the road and win in a tough place against a quality opponent, you have to feel good about it.”

The second-half scare seemed improbable after the Wolverines’ hot start. Michigan put the pressure on from the opening tip and jumped out to a big lead. After Harris hit a pull-up jumper to start the game, Sims intercepted a pass outside the 3-point arc and trucked coast-to-coast for a layup.

On the next RedHawk possession, Abram stole the ball and hit a turn-around of his own to give the Wolverines a quick six-point lead. Abram picked up another steal a few minutes later. Even though he failed to convert the layup, sophomore Jerret Smith had his back, putting Michigan up by 10.

From there, Harris took over. The senior knocked down a triple, assisted a Ron Coleman trey and splashed another 3-pointer as part of a 10-3 Michigan run that gave the Wolverines a 22-5 lead.

“I was very impressed and pleased the way we were able to start the game,” Amaker said. “That gave us the cushion that we needed, because we had to hold on at the end.”

Harris led the way for Michigan with 20 points. The senior finished 3-for-4 from downtown (6-for-9 overall), including a big bucket with fewer than three minutes remaining to give the Wolverines a 10-point lead. Sims added nine points and eight boards, and Abram totaled 12 points on just 3-for-10 shooting.

Michigan 62
Miami (OH) 56

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