Maybe the recent string of injuries was a good thing after all.
With forward Graham Brown, wing Lester Abram and guard Daniel Horton injured, several players have been given opportunities to play larger roles for the Michigan men’s basketball team. Sophomore John Andrews and freshman Ron Coleman have both shown dramatic improvement since entering the starting lineup.
Andrews played just 11 minutes last season but has already started six games this year in place of Abram. Andrews did not attempt a field goal against No. 14 Iowa on Wednesday but converted four free throw attempts — all with under one minute remaining in the game — to help seal the 65-63 win.
“One of the keys of the game was John Andrews and his free throws down the stretch,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “He’s a tough player. I had lots of confidence when he stepped up to the line.”
Coleman, after converting just three of his first 22 shot attempts this season, has been key in Michigan’s recent offensive revival, and has been developing into a legitimate 3-point threat. He’s averaging 10.2 points per game as a starter over the past four contests. The guard hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Michigan an early lead, and with Michigan up 52-47 late in the second half, he forced a turnover and finished the play with a lay-up on the other end. Even though the bucket was his first since the opening minutes, Coleman was on the floor in the final moments when the game was in doubt — a testament to the confidence Amaker has in the freshman.
Not this time: After a 14-point halftime lead was cut to one by Iowa, it appeared as if the Wolverines would fold.
The Hawkeyes trailed 48-47 with 11:42 remaining in the second half, but, with each Iowa push, Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 9-5 overall) countered with either a momentum-reversing charge, tip-in, offensive rebound or big block — signs of a maturing ballclub. Iowa never led in the second half.
“Games like this you lose when you stop being aggressive,” Horton said. “Coach made some great play calls and allowed us to keep being aggressive.”
Despite executing late in the second half, Michigan committed 14 turnovers and did not register an assist in the period, yet was still able to overcome Iowa’s attack.
“I would have preferred that we would have been able to keep them off better than we did,” Amaker said. “You can learn a lot from a game like this, especially when you win.”
Although the Wolverines were outscored 33-21 in the second half, key rebounding kept the Hawkeyes from ever taking the lead in the final 20 minutes.
“The difference in the game for us was rebounding, especially on the defensive boards, but also offensively,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “When you are not hitting your shots, you don’t get a lot of assists and have to rely on defense.”
Up Next: The Wolverines take a quick breather from conference play and battle Fairfield (3-1 MAAC, 6-6) at 8 p.m. tomorrow. Michigan defeated the Stags 66-43 last season at Madison Square Garden behind 17 points from Horton. Fairfield returns four starters from a year ago, including guard Kudjo Sogadzi, who scored 11 points in just 21 minutes against the Wolverines last season. In their first game of the year, the Stags were edged by then-No. 14 Mississippi State 53-49 and played competitively in losses at Saint Joseph’s and No. 24 George Washington. Junior Chris Hunter is expected to start after suffering an ankle injury against Iowa, while Horton is expected to play extensive minutes off the bench.