Daniel Horton stole the show in crunch time on Saturday. Michigan’s senior point guard scored 18 second-half points, including eight in the final 49 seconds. But if it weren’t for Courtney Sims and his remarkable first-half performance against Butler, Horton’s fantastic finish in Michigan’s 78-74 win might have been in vain.

Sims dominated the opening 14 minutes of the contest. When the score was tied at 20 with 6:08 remaining in the opening frame, the junior had converted eight of his 11 field goal attempts, accounting 16 of the Wolverines’ points – a full 80 percent of the team’s offensive output. Prior to Sims’s eighth bucket, his teammates’ shooting was ice-cold. The rest of Michigan’s roster went a combined 2-for-11 during Sims’s rapid start. After the Wolverines reached 20 points, the remainder of the squad went 6-for-9 from the field as Michigan pulled away for a 37-29 lead heading into the intermission.

“I knew I had to establish myself,” Sims said. “I knew (the Bulldogs) thought they had an advantage with their quickness and we had an advantage with our height. I wanted to establish that.”

Sims was also active on the glass, recording four put-back buckets in the period. When the halftime buzzer sounded, the Boston native had collected 18 points on 75 percent shooting to go along with five rebounds in just 15 minutes.

“We really had the emphasis about getting the ball inside, and certainly (Sims) is our best interior scorer,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “He was the recipient of some good passes by our players.”

The 6-foot-11, 245-pound Sims was visibly fatigued late in the first half – no doubt due in large part to his extensive involvement on both ends of the floor – and failed to duplicate his early feats in the second stanza. The Massachusetts native managed just three points, two rebounds and a block in 15 additional minutes after halftime. But Sims had already made enough of a contribution to put Michigan in position to win the game.

“They drew more attention to me (in the second half), and I didn’t get as many touches,” Sims said. “The game was more hectic. If I got the rebound, (Horton) would be pushing it up and making the lay-up. It was just a different game in the second half. But I think that was due to me establishing myself in the first half.”

Sims faced double-teams throughout the final frame, freeing up Horton and wings Ron Coleman and Lester Abram for easier shots. The trio combined to score 36 of Michigan’s 41 points in the second half.

“I thought (Butler) adjusted in the second half and shrunk the floor and didn’t allow a lot of room in there,” Amaker said. “I was really pleased (Sims) didn’t force things and stayed within the team concept. He also played well on the defensive end, so I was really pleased with his growth and maturity, as well.”

Sims finished the afternoon shooting 10-for-14 from the field. His 10 makes from the floor set a new career high. After failing to average in double figures in either of his first two seasons in Ann Arbor, Sims currently sits second on the Wolverines’ scoring list, pouring in 15.3 points per game to go along with a team-high seven boards per contest.

Notes: The Wolverines pushed the all-time series record against Butler to 17-12, in favor of Michigan – Horton, who scored 28 points in the game, combined with Sims to mark the first time since Dec. 13, 2003 that the Wolverines have had two 20-point scorers in the same game. Abram and Bernard Robinson Jr. reached the milestone against Central Michigan – The announced attendance was 9,513, although there were noticeably fewer fans in attendance.

 

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