EVANSTON – As the Michigan men’s basketball team walked off the court, coach Tommy Amaker stopped his players as they walked past their bench after the 77-70 win over Northwestern. He then had his players acknowledge the group of Maize Rage members who made the trip out to Evanston.
Approximately 70 fans made the five-hour trek to the northern suburb of Chicago to watch the Wolverines extend their winning streak to 11 – the longest since the 1992-93 season. In two buses paid for by Amaker, the students left Ann Arbor from the Crisler Arena parking lot at 7:30 in the morning.
It was the first time the Maize Rage has taken a road trip en masse, and their support had an impact on the Wolverines.
“We had a (high) attendance here at the game and we certainly appreciate that,” Amaker said. “I heard them in the locker room before the game started. Anytime you have a number of your fans come on the road, it is very exciting and I wanted to make sure that our kids acknowledged that support because it was certainly beneficial for our team.”
The cheering of the Maize Rage, which by the end of the game had grown to more than 100 students, could be heard clearly on the court and over the television broadcast. By the end of the game, they were even drowning out the Northwestern student section, known as the Wildside, when trying to distract the Wildcats’ free throw shooters and cheer on the Michigan comeback.
Maize Rage spokesman Peter Lund said the group first told Amaker of its intentions of taking buses to Evanston before the season started. But when they got the cost estimates they knew they would not be able to afford it. As soon as Amaker’s office got wind of this, the marketing department arranged the buses, which the Maize Rage was easily able to fill.
“Ever since Amaker was hired and arranged a meeting with the students, he has really wanted our support,” Lund said. “He knows how important student support is from his days with Duke.”
While Northwestern averages a meager 3,336 in attendance per game, the stands of Welsh-Ryan Arena were slightly more full for the Michigan game, which had 5,623 fans pack in for Northwesters largest home crowd of the season.
Diaper Dandy: Daniel Horton has been playing some of the best basketball in the Big Ten, and the conference is giving him his props. Horton received the Big Ten Player of the Week honor for the second time this season. He first received the honor for averaging 18.5 points against Eastern Michigan and UCLA.
The freshman averaged 19.5 points and five assists last week to help snap a seven game losing streak to Ohio State and keep Michigan atop the Big Ten standings. His standout performance came against Northwestern, a game in which he poured in 22 points and shot 6-for-13 from behind the arc.
“He is a kid that always senses the moment,” Amaker said. “I think you can also use the word daring, and he has displayed that a number of times this year and that couldn’t be more evident than this afternoon. It seemed like every time there was a huge basket, he delivered it for us. I think he has a knack for it.”
Horton now joins Indiana’s Bracey Wright as the seventh freshman in Big Ten history to receive the honor twice in one season and became the first Wolverine to accomplish the feat. Purdue’s senior guard, Willie Deane was also named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week.
New banner: The ceiling of Crisler Arena became a little more empty when the banners honoring the now “lost years” due to self-imposed sanctions, were taken down. But soon, Cazzie Russell’s No. 33 will get some company. Former All-American Rudy Tomjanovich will become just the second Wolverine to have a number retired. His No. 45 jersey will be retired in a ceremony during halftime of the Feb. 8 game against Iowa. This will make former Michigan center Chris Young the last Wolverine ever to wear the No. 45 jersey.
Tomjanovich is sixth on the Michigan all-time scoring list with 1,039 points and holds the Crisler Arena single-game record for points with 48 and rebounds with 27.
The former center has won two NBA championships in his 11 years as head coach of the Houston Rockets.
Two for the price of one: For the first time since the 1999-2000 season, Michigan is being acknowledged by voters in the national polls. The Wolverines received two points in this week’s Associated Press poll. No. 25 California is 132 points ahead of Michigan, while No. 1 Arizona received 1,795 points.