Welcome to Michigan men’s basketball 2004-05 — take two.

The Wolverines beat High Point 67-53 last night at Crisler Arena, but they were forced to do it with a group of players that fans aren’t used to seeing on the floor with great regularity.

Michigan (5-3) was without three starters last night. Michigan coach Tommy Amaker learned over the weekend that junior wing Lester Abram would be lost for the season with a shoulder injury and junior forward Graham Brown would be out for four-to-six weeks after hernia surgery.

Then on Sunday, guard Daniel Horton injured his knee during practice, in what Amaker described as a collision with another player. The junior is listed as being out indefinitely and received an MRI during the second half of the game.

The injury bug forced Amaker to reach deep down his bench, and he was happy with what he found.

“We were certainly pleased with the effort that our players gave this evening,” Amaker said. “Obviously with different combinations, different lineups and things that you can’t really prepare for in a lot of different ways, I thought it was a great team effort.”

Forward Chris Hunter made his first start of the year for the Wolverines and wasted no time in making the most of his appearance. The forward scored nine of Michigan’s first 11 points. He also took a charge, recorded a rebound and hit a 3-pointer in the opening four minutes of the game, which could have been titled “The Chris Hunter Show.”

Hunter surpassed his career high of 13 points in the first half alone by scoring 15. He finished the game with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting and six rebounds in a career-high 30 minutes.

“I think I’m a very confident player,” Hunter said. “The guys were looking for me and getting me the ball, so I was just strong with the ball and made quick moves. And tonight, I got shots to fall in.”

Hunter wasn’t the only Wolverine who turned in personal bests. Sophomore wing John Andrews set a career high in points (10) and minutes (29), while junior guard Dani Wohl set a career high in minutes (30) and tied a career mark in points (four).

Andrews has started three games in Abram’s absence and has suddenly become a scoring option instead of a role player.

“I’m still kind of shocked, playing from the bench and going to a starter,” Andrews said. “You just fill the holes. You do what you need to do to get the job done.”

The Wolverines did have two regular starters left in sophomores Dion Harris and Courtney Sims, but one of them was still on the bench at tipoff.

Amaker decided to put in Hunter instead of Sims, forcing the center to come off the bench for the first time in his Michigan career.

While Sims started slow — he didn’t score at all in the first half — he finished the game with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

But Harris had a less-than-impressive game, considering he has seemingly become Michigan’s No. 1 scoring option overnight. The guard shot just 3-for-13 from the floor and finished with eight points.

When Harris shared the backcourt with Abram and Horton, he was usually scoring option No. 3. Fortunately for Harris, the team didn’t need a lights-out shooting performance from him this time around.

“Who knows what will happen in other games?” Harris said. “In particular tonight, I didn’t have to score that much. Other guys stepped up and it was a great game for us.”

If the crew of walking wounded could have picked any time in Michigan’s schedule to miss games, this was it. After four games against NCAA Tournament-worthy teams — three of which were on the road — the Wolverines now play four of their next five games at home against unranked opponents.

Although it’s hard to gauge just how good the Wolverines are against a Big South opponent like High Point (2-6), the stretch ahead should give Amaker a better feel whether the players he has left are enough to keep Michigan on the road to the NCAA Tournament.

“I think (last night) proves that we have players that, in time of need, we can turn to,” Amaker said. “I think when you talk to our players in the locker room, they’ll be excited to know we can count on them.”

 

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