NEW YORK — The Michigan basketball team found a way to
bounce back.

After pushing aside the disappointment of being left off of the
NCAA Tournament bracket just a few weeks ago, the Wolverines
rebounded to win the NIT with a 62-55 victory over Rutgers at
Madison Square Garden last night.

“We’re definitely on a high right now,”
freshman forward Brent Petway said. “Selection night we may
have been on a low, but then we got that phone call (from the NIT)
and we knew we had to go play some ball.”

The Wolverines made it interesting down the stretch against the
Scarlet Knights. With 1:51 remaining, senior Bernard Robinson gave
Michigan a 56-48 lead with a pair of free throws. But the team hit
just four of its next nine foul shots to let Rutgers get back
within four with 18 seconds left.

“We just knew we had to focus,” Michigan guard
Daniel Horton said.

And that’s exactly what the sophomore did, knocking down
two freebies from the charity stripe with seven seconds on the
clock to ice the win and the NIT title.

The Wolverines were once again led by the young backcourt of
Dion Harris and Horton, the tournament’s MVP. The duo
combined for 27 points and eight assists on the night.

Harris got things rolling early. The freshman, who was later
named to the All-Tournament team, buried a three-pointer to cap a
9-2 Michigan run to start the game. The Wolverines led by as many
as nine in the opening stanza, despite shooting just 38 percent
from the field and hitting on just 6-of-11 free throws.

Rutgers forward Herve Lamizana, a third-team All-Big East
selection, kept his team in the game in the first half with an
emphatic shot-blocking display. The 6-foot-10 senior tossed aside
five Michigan shots in the first 20 minutes, including an
authoritative swat of a Bernard Robinson dunk attempt.

In total, Lamizana finished just two blocks shy of a
triple-double — he had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight
rejections. On the offensive end, the Ivory Coast native repeatedly
faked jump shots along the perimeter to gain a step on
Michigan’s defenders and get into the paint for a shot.

Michigan did manage to shut down Quincy Douby, the Scarlet
Knights’ leading scorer on Tuesday. The 6-foot-3 guard had 35
against Iowa State in the semifinals, but found few good looks all
night against the Wolverines, shooting a dismal 1-for-13. He
finally located the bottom of the net four minutes into the second
half on a runner from the baseline to cut Michigan’s lead to
41-31. The freshman finished with just two points.

“I knew they were going to focus on me,” Douby said.
“I know they watched film and they’ve seen some of my
weaknesses, and they (exploited) my weaknesses.”

The New York crowd was largely behind Rutgers, located in nearby
New Jersey, creating a hostile road environment for the Wolverines.
At points, it seemed to rattle Michigan, but the team found a way
to remain level-headed.

“We were talking at halftime and throughout the second
half about poise,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “I
think the crowd made it a very electric atmosphere. That makes you
play faster than you want to.”

It’s been almost seven months since Michigan won its
appeal to the NCAA, negating its second year of postseason
probation. After failing to make the NCAA Tournament, it looked
like the Wolverines would fail to capitalize on the decision. But
Amaker wasn’t about to let that happen.

“To learn that we became postseason eligible at the
beginning of the year, we tried to make a move this season,”
Amaker said. “And I think our players have done that in a
fine fashion to make our University proud.”

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