CHICAGO – Sometimes, the oracle doesn’t bother warning you.
That was the case for Michigan freshman Daniel Horton last Thursday evening when he went up for an uncontested layup during a practice scrimmage. It was the type of layup he has completed thousands of times in practice and hundreds of times in games.
But unlike all of the layups Horton has completed in the past, the freshman didn’t stick the landing. Instead, he came down hard on his left ankle, causing a twist that sent him to the floor of Crisler Arena, writhing in pain. Horton would have to be carried off the court and spent the rest of the evening hobbling on crutches.
The injury was so bad, an hour prior to the game, the Michigan coaching staff did not think Horton was gong to play in the 63-56 loss to Indiana. With the game less than 24 hours away, the Wolverines would have to make due with the circumstances they had been handed.
Despite the pain, the freshman didn’t want to abandon the team he helped turn around this season, and asked the coaching staff if he could participate in the team shoot-around.
“I couldn’t let (the seniors’) careers end with me on the bench,” Horton said. “They have done so much for me.”
So after a cortisone shot, the point guard stepped onto the court at the United Center in his velour warm-ups, grabbed a ball, dribbled to the hoop and layed the ball in, just as he had done the thousands of times before.
“We left it up to Daniel and our medical staff,” said Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, who appeared shocked at the sight of Horton bouncing around during the shoot-around. “I did not anticipate he would be able to play at all for us given his status earlier and at practice last night. I told him … ‘You have a long career, and there is no need to push anything if you feel you cannot do it.'”
Two minutes into the game, Horton, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, took a 3-point shot from the left elbow and pumped his fist to communicate that he was feeling all right. But 30 seconds later, he committed his first of three fouls in the first half and would spend seven minutes on the bench in foul trouble.
Those three points would serve as his only points of the game, as he was limited to 1-for-6 shooting, zero free-throw attempts and four assists before fouling out in the final minute.
Despite being handcuffed by its ailing point guard, Michigan controlled the pace of play in the first half, as Indiana shot an uncharacteristically-high amount of 3-point shots.
Junior Bernard Robinson was on his way to a triple double, with six assists and nine rebounds, while playing the entire half. Robinson, a forward, has acted as the backup point guard all season and increased that role on Friday by carrying the ball up court even when Horton was in the game.
Meanwhile, LaVell Blanchard, Michigan’s first four-year leader in rebounds and points, paced Michigan with 21 points, 15 of which came in the first half. A Blanchard layup in the final minute of the first half put the Wolverines up 30-25 at halftime.
“I thought they both played very well in the first half,” Amaker said. “Those two players do a lot for us and obviously play a lot of minutes. I think they might have gotten a little fatigued in the second half.”
In the second half, the Wolverines sputtered, as the Hoosiers improved their shooting to 43 percent, while Michigan connected on eight field goals. Indiana outscored Michigan 38-26 in the half and held the Wolverines to six points in the final seven minutes.
Acting as a catalyst for the Hoosiers was junior A.J. Moye, who came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points in 26 minutes. Moye, who had 16 of his points in the second half, was 6-for-6 shooting and 5-for-7 from the line.
Moye gained Indiana’s first lead of the game when, with more than six minutes to go, he connected on a 3-point play. But Moye, who had been fouled by senior Gavin Groninger on his way to the hoop, took a third step that the referees did not call.
The play took the momentum away from the Wolverines, who were held scoreless for the next four and a half minutes except for two Robinson free throws.
Foul trouble, in addition to poor decision making helped stifle the Wolverines. Michigan was called for 26 fouls in the game and 16 in the second half.
Indiana, conversely, was called for just 18 fouls in the game. Michigan’s foul trouble allowed Indiana to take 29 free throws, while Michigan took just 13, and caused all seven rotating Wolverines to finish in foul trouble. Two Michigan players fouled out of the game.
“We were not at full strength, but we gave it a great effort,” Amaker said. “I am very proud of this year and this team.”