There’s only one thing you can say about Michigan freshman point guard Daniel Horton’s astounding performance down the stretch of last night’s win: Fearless.
It’s been several years since a player like him has donned the maize and blue. Someone not afraid to take the ball in clutch situations – and confident enough to deliver. Someone who doesn’t back down in desperate situations, and is able to turn it on in a moment’s notice.
With enough heart and passion to fill Crisler Arena last night, Horton put on one of the most gritty, determined and miraculous performances Michigan fans have ever seen.
And as the freshman marched down the court, ball in hand, with just under a minute to play and Michigan trailing by one, he was poised. He knew it was his time, and he could do no wrong.
A nearly impossible running bank shot with four arms in his face, followed by an unthinkable blocked shot against Wisconsin’s Devin Harris on the defensive end triggered a court stampede.
He finished with one rebound, but it was the biggest of the game. He only had one blocked shot, but it was unforgettable.
You can argue that Michigan should have never been in that situation to begin with. If LaVell Blanchard had been able to settle down in the first half and drop a few shots, the 15-point comeback would never have been necessary. If the Wolverines had buckled down on their inside defense in the first 20 minutes of the game, they wouldn’t have needed a hero.
But as it turned out, Michigan dug itself a hole. The Wolverines had been there before numerous times, but they haven’t had a go-to-guy to feed with the game on the line. They haven’t had a player tough enough to take it at the defense in the closing moments.
Certainly, Blanchard’s revival late in the second half was just as important to the victory as Horton’s performance. But last night, Horton became Michigan’s go-to-guy. The comeback began with Blanchard, but ended on the wings of the freshman.
“It shows that we have a lot of character,” Horton said. “When we started 0-6 a lot of people were doubting us and saying that it is the same old Michigan – but it is not.”
By engineering one of the most exciting Michigan basketball victories in more than four years so early in his career, Horton is giving the program a reason to believe a turnaround is in the near future. He proved that he has the potential to put the Wolverines on his back and lead them to victory.
Tommy Amaker seems to have got just what he was looking for when he signed Horton. A court leader who could single-handedly dig them out of holes. Someone who wants the ball.
The only question lingering in the minds of Michigan fans everywhere is will he be able to maintain this torrid pace. Playing nearly 40 minutes every game, it seems as though having Horton on the floor has become a necessity for this team. Will he have the energy five or 10 games down the road to put together another magical performance?
“I think I can still play better,” Horton said.
A performance topping last night’s would definitely be something to see. In fact, it might even be a little scary. But it certainly won’t be scary enough to frighten Daniel Horton.
Naweed Sikora can be reached at email@example.com.