There was just over three minutes left in Monday’s game
and Oklahoma had taken control. The Wolverines’ nine-point
lead was whittled down to two, and Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
needed a timeout to talk to his players.

“I told them right away that I thought that we were doing
some really good things,” Amaker said. “I didn’t
want them to get rattled obviously at that moment.”

The Wolverines took the confidence boost to heart.

They made big shots after the timeout, and earned a trip to the
quarterfinals of the NIT with an 11-point win.

Tonight, Michigan (20-11 overall, 8-8 Big Ten) will stride into
Crisler Arena for a contest with Hawaii (21-11 overall, 11-7
WAC).

Free throws were the key to Michigan’s late push against
the Sooners. The team made its last 14 shots from the charity
stripe — 10 of which came in the last three minutes —
to secure the victory.

Guard Daniel Horton said that the Wolverines discussed missed
free throws at halftime, after they hit just 6-of-12 in the first
half. Michigan got rolling after the break, especially in the last
few minutes, when it needed to most.

“Basketball, I believe, is played in a contagious
way,” Amaker said. “I think (our players) get
confidence when they see guys go before them and knock them
down.”

The Wolverines have struggled at the line this season, finishing
seventh in the Big Ten at 69.7 percent. They also had trouble
getting fouled to begin with.

Back in January, Michigan made a horrid 32 percent of its foul
shots in a win over Fairfield. The Wolverines took just three free
throws in a home loss to Indiana a week later.

But on Monday, sophomore Chris Hunter and freshman Dion Harris
both stepped up and made four free throws in the final minutes.
Forward Brent Petway added two more in his late trip to the
line.

“We work on it religiously,” said Amaker of the foul
shots. “It certainly paid dividends (against
Oklahoma).”

Horton also played big late in the game, driving the lane
against Oklahoma’s zone defense to create offense. He dropped
a pair of runners in the paint during the last two-plus
minutes.

“I think I was being a little too passive against their
zone,” Horton said. “(Late in the game), I tried to
penetrate, look for guys, and if they didn’t step up and take
it, I had the little jumper.”

Hawaii, which finished fifth in the WAC this season, almost
didn’t make it to the quarterfinals. The Rainbow Warriors let
a 17-point lead evaporate in the second half against Nebraska on
Monday. But they rallied to win by one at home.

Senior Michael Kuebler, a 6-foot-5 junior college transfer,
leads Hawaii with 18 points per game.

The Rainbow Warriors knocked off Utah State, a team many people
felt should have made it to the Big Dance, to open the NIT.

Michigan sophomore Lester Abram, who has missed the last three
games with a shoulder injury, is day-to-day. He’ll probably
dress tonight, as he did Monday, but he may not play.

“We’re fortunate to get the home game,” Amaker
said. “We seem to be fairly confident here.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.