BLOOMINGTON — As I left the court at
Assembly Hall last night, I overheard a relieved Indiana fan
venting some of the frustration that had been building during his
team’s recent skid.

Dan Rosen

“Well, they tried to give that one away, too,” he
said of his Hoosiers.

Indiana had lost four straight at home and seven of its last
eight games overall before Michigan came to town. Five of those
defeats came by less than five points. As Indiana coach Mike Davis
said on Monday, his team just wasn’t executing down the
stretch.

And they weren’t exactly clutch last night.

The Hoosiers gave the Wolverines multiple opportunities to win a
road game, staying true to their recent trend.

The only problem was that Michigan wasn’t sharp enough to
snatch up the victory — one that it needed a lot more than
Indiana.

“It was a great time to beat a team like this,”
senior Bernard Robinson said. “We let one go.”

Holding the ball and a two-point lead with 1:39 remaining, the
Hoosiers had a good chance to give themselves some breathing room.
But 6-foot-11 senior George Leach had it slapped out of his hands
in the post.

At the end of an ensuing timeout, the center ran back on
defense, even though his team had the ball — a clear sign
that he wasn’t exactly dialed in late.

Indiana again allowed Michigan to stay in contention at the end
when guards Donald Perry and Bracey Wright missed three of four
free throws in the final minute.

Wright, who was eighth in the Big Ten from the line at 79.5
percent going into last night, missed both of his shots with 13
ticks on the clock.

So, within one possession, Michigan had two chances —
3-point attempts by Daniel Horton and Bernard Robinson — to
tie the game.

Neither of those shots went down.

But a major problem was that Michigan might have been able to
secure a victory before it came to that. The Wolverines had Indiana
over the foul limit down the stretch, meaning that they would get
to the charity stripe every time they were fouled.

And Indiana hacked the Wolverines repeatedly. But Michigan
didn’t hit the shots, making just five of nine free throws in
the final six minutes.

On a night when Michigan turned the ball over just seven times,
the few mistakes the Wolverines made were critical.

With the Wolverines down two points and 1:05 remaining,
Robinson, who had an uncharacteristically off night, stepped on the
baseline on a drive to the hoop.

On the next possession, Indiana’s Marshall Strickland
bricked a runner with the shot clock winding down. It was a miss
that should have allowed the Wolverines yet another chance to tie
or take the lead late.

But Michigan fumbled the rebound into the hands of Perry, and
the Wolverines instead were forced to foul.

“We’ve got to grab the ball,” guard Daniel
Horton said. “That’s part of basketball.”

“It’s hard to overcome those kinds of things in a
tough ballgame, in a close ballgame on the road,” said
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker of the play.

Indiana coach Davis said after his team’s win last night,
the Big Ten Tournament will be “wide open” come next
weekend.

If Michigan has any chance of grabbing the automatic bid to the
NCAA Tournament given to the Big Ten tourney champ — probably
the only chance it has left to do any dancing — it’s
got to make plays in the final two minutes, and take advantage of
its opportunities at the Big Ten Tournament.

“We’ve just got to find ways to pull it out,”
Horton said. “We’ve got to make free throws, get
crucial rebounds. It’s something we just have to
do.”

Daniel Rosen can be reached at
“mailto:danielsr@umich.edu”>danielsr@umich.edu

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