What had been a recurring problem for Michigan early this season came back to haunt them last night against Colorado State. Senior center Chris Young the Wolverines” lone legitimate big man has been unable to stay out of foul trouble for Michigan (5-6 Big Ten, 10-12 overall). In last night”s 70-66 overtime loss to Colorado State (1-7 Mountain West, 9-13 overall), Young exited with 4:41 remaining in the second half with his team leading by four. He was able to play just 16 minutes all game because of early fouls, and the Wolverines could not adequately respond to the worst team in the Mountain West Conference.
“We really did not have a post presence tonight,” Michigan assistant coach Chuck Swenson said. LaVell (Blanchard) played well but most of his game tonight was on the perimeter. Us not having an inside game was key Chris fouling out was really the key. Credit Colorado State for going after him. The first thing they did in the second half was go at him and it worked out well for them.”
Another trouble from which Michigan has not had any relief this season has been its inability to close the first half strong. Last night was more of the same, as the Wolverines could not further their four-point lead in the waning minutes before the intermission, heading into the lockerroom with just a 29-25 lead, despite poor shooting by the Rams.
Colorado State kept the game close throughout the second half, and with three and a half minutes left an Andy Birley 3-pointer gave the Rams their first lead (56-54) since the game”s early moments. After a Matt Nelson tip-in gave Colorado State a 59-56 lead with less than a minute to go in regulation, Michigan sophomore forward Bernard Robinson hit a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game. Robinson followed that feat by tipping away the Rams” inbound to force overtime.
In overtime, an overtired Michigan squad playing with its emotional leader and predominant post presence on the bench could not match baskets with Colorado State. The Rams capitalized on their early overtime possessions and built a 64-59 lead. A Leon Jones 3-pointer brought the Wolverines to within two, but Colorado State responded with a Joe Macklin tip-in. Blanchard who once again did not start for the Wolverines shot up an airball with 33 seconds remaining. Michigan proceeded to foul Colorado State forward Brian Greene, who sank one of two free throws. Blanchard responded with a successful 3-pointer, but it would be the last Michigan basket of the night, and at 67-65, the closest the Wolverines would get.
This was the first ever win for Colorado State over Michigan, and the first time the Wolverines have lost an overtime game since Feb. 16, 1997, when they lost 84-81 to Indiana.
Michigan is now 1-8 on the road this season, and does not have time to recuperate before it boards a plane from Denver to Detroit, then flies immediately to West Lafayette for tomorrow”s Big Ten matchup against Purdue.
“We have to put this behind us,” Swenson said. “We wanted momentum going into Purdue but that did not happen. We have to be able to keep (Young) in the game. If we can do that then we have better chance to come out of there with a win. This is the type of game that you want to put behind you.”
Milestones: Blanchard”s 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting was enough to move him into 15th on the all-time scoring list. He surpassed current NBA All-Star Chris Webber and 1960″s legend Dennis Stewart. His next targets on the list are Maurice Taylor and Ray Jackson.
Junior Gavin Groninger, who has a tendency to have big games for Michigan against non-conference opponents, shot 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point line last night. His final 3-pointer gave him 100 for his Michigan career.