It’s hard for someone 6-foot-11 to hide anywhere without
being noticed, but that’s exactly what Michigan freshman
Courtney Sims was able to do during the closing seconds against
Purdue on Saturday.

Kate Green
AP PHOTO
Michigan freshman Courtney Sims attempts to tip in a Daniel Horton miss in the final seconds on Saturday. Sims missed the first shot but tipped in the second attempt to give Michigan the win.

After a Brandon McKnight fade-away jumper capped a 16-point
Purdue comeback to give the Boilermakers the 63-62 lead with just
under eight seconds remaining in the game, Michigan point guard
Daniel Horton took the inbounds and raced the length of the
court.

His floater in the lane came up short of the rim. Waiting for
the miss, though, was Sims, who had snuck behind the Purdue
defenders as they scrambled to stop Horton’s penetration.

Sims’s first tip-in attempt fell out, but the center
managed to knock home the second chance, giving Michigan a 64-63
win.

“I knew (Horton) was going to take the shot — I just
wanted to get into position,” Sims said. “When he
missed it, it just happened to fall into my hands. I tried to tip
it in but missed, and I just stayed with it until it
fell.”

The Michigan big man was able to get into position for the
game-winner thanks, in no small part, to Purdue’s absence of
timeouts. Instead of stopping the clock and setting up their
defense, the Boilermakers’ were forced to try and improvise a
defense on the fly to stop the charging Horton — a situation
that led to Sims’ terrific inside position.

“I wish we would’ve had (a timeout),” Purdue
coach Gene Keady said. “If we’d have had one, we
would’ve won the game because we would’ve got our
defense set up. We didn’t block out. You’ve got to
punch the ball out and not let them have another
possession.”

After the referees viewed the replay of Sims’ shot, Purdue
was given 1.4 seconds to attempt to steal a win. But the
Boilermakers’ final heave downcourt was tipped away,
preventing any last-second shot attempt and preserving a
roller-coaster victory for the Wolverines.

“I don’t think we escaped, I think we won,”
Horton said. “I think that’s something that this team
is getting used to doing — pulling it out at the
end.”

For the first eight minutes of the second half, it looked as if
Michigan (4-4 Big Ten, 13-6 overall) might run Purdue (5-4, 15-7)
out of sold-out Crisler Arena. After leading 35-30 at the half, the
Wolverines watched Purdue trim the advantage to one before
responding with a 15-2 run to open the 16-point cushion.

Freshman Dion Harris started the spurt by converting a layup
after Horton threaded the needle with a bounce pass through two
Purdue defenders. Two plays later, Harris forced a turnover and fed
senior Bernard Robinson for an easy bucket.

“I thought our defense was terrific,” Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker said. “We were able to use our defense to create
good shots offensively.”

But that was the high water mark for the Wolverines. Keady used
one of his team’s timeouts, turning the momentum around.

“(I told them in the timeout) to be aggressive on offense
first, and believe they could make a comeback,” Keady said.
“In college basketball, you’re never out of
it.”

Purdue forward David Teague began to heat up from the field,
while the Wolverines’ offense was lulled to sleep by the
Boilermakers’ zone defense.

Michigan went almost 11 minutes without a basket, managing a
mere three free throws over that stretch. This drought allowed
Purdue to tie the game at 57.

“I think (we frustrated them),” Teague said.
“We had them right where we wanted them.”

The two teams wrestled back and forth from there on in. Horton
ended the scoring troubles by drilling a 3-pointer from the top of
the key. But Horton and Sims each missed the front end of
one-and-one free throw opportunities, paving the way for McKnight
to hit two shots that put Purdue ahead in the final 30 seconds.

Sims and Horton’s late-game heroics were the culmination
of solid evenings from both players. Horton had a game-high 19
points and added five assists, while Sims recorded 11 points and 15
boards —his first career double-double. Robinson joined Sims
in the double-double category, with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Michigan returns to action on Wednesday as it travels to
Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers, who are still winless in
the Big Ten after losing to Illinois yesterday.

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