Tommy Amaker said Daniel Horton displayed “courage.”

Roshan Reddy
Senior Daniel Horton scored a career-high 39 points in leading Michigan to a 72-64 victory over No. 8 Illinois. (FOREST CASEY/DAILY)
Roshan Reddy

Graham Brown called Horton’s game “phenomenal.”

Even star Illinois point guard Dee Brown termed his rival’s performance “fantabulous.”

But Horton said his play was only “aight.”

Aight?!

I know you’re modest, Daniel. But your 39-point explosion last night was a lot closer to legendary.

With Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes likely on the line, Horton willed his team to victory last night at Crisler Arena. The ESPN cameras were rolling, the most hyped point guard in the NCAA was staring him down, and Daniel Horton didn’t just rise to the occasion. He rose over it.

Horton hit open threes. He hit contested threes. He hit runners in the lane. He hit jumpers from the corner. He hit off-balance shots over multiple Illini defenders. He hit six crucial free throws in the final minute to ice the game.

Horton’s stat line was ridiculous. Thirteen-for-20 from the field, 5-for-7 from behind the 3-point line, 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Incredible numbers. But there was a lot more to Horton’s performance.

After the Illini went ahead by seven early in the second half, Horton picked Brown’s pocket and took off on a 3-on-1 fast break.

Horton could have taken the shot himself – he was shooting the lights out, after all. He could have dished to Courtney Sims down low. But instead, he delivered a shovel pass to Dion Harris, who struggled all day with his jump shot.

Like a true team player, Horton wanted to give his backcourt-mate some confidence. Harris drained the open trey, sparking the pivotal 9-0 run that gave Michigan control of the game.

Defensively, Horton was the team’s anchor. When Illinois ran double- and triple-screens to get Dee Brown open, Horton fought through the picks. When Horton couldn’t get through, he called out switches, making sure that another Michigan player could get a hand in Brown’s face. After 38 minutes of chasing around college basketball’s quickest player, Horton said he was tired. But he never slowed down, not on offense and especially not on defense.

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