In its biggest game of the year in front of the loudest home
crowd of the season, the Michigan basketball team didn’t
disappoint its fans. The Wolverines played solid defense and
endured a late Sooner rally en route to a 63-52 win over Oklahoma
in last night’s second-round NIT game at Crisler Arena.

After Michigan took a nine-point lead with 6:28 to go in the
game, Oklahoma made a late surge as the Wolverines settled for
numerous poor shots. Freshman Lawrence McKenzie nailed a pair of
triples as part of a 7-0 run for the Sooners to pull Oklahoma
within two.

Then, in the next two minutes, Michigan freshman Dion Harris hit
two free throws sandwiched between a pair of Daniel Horton floaters
in the lane to give Michigan (9-9 Big Ten, 20-11 overall) a 55-47
lead and put the game out of reach.

“Daniel hit a couple of shots down the stretch like he did
in the previous game against Missouri,” Michigan coach Tommy
Amaker said. “He was able to get a few to drop in big
situations for us.”

Oklahoma (9-9 Big XII, 20-11) had its chances to take advantage
of Michigan mistakes down the stretch but failed to do so. During a
three-minute span with less than five minutes to play, the
Wolverines forced up several bad shots, including a 25-foot
3-pointer from Horton that followed a timeout.

But Michigan’s tough defense down the stretch was too much
for an undermanned Oklahoma squad which had just two players on its
bench after sophomore DeAngelo Alexander injured his shoulder in
the first half. The Wolverines forced the Sooners into tough shots
late in the shot clock on most of their possessions in the
game’s final stretch.

“We wanted to be solid on defense, hold them to one shot
and keep them off the glass,” Horton said. “I
don’t think we did as good a job as we should’ve
keeping them off the glass, but I think our first-shot defense was
pretty good.”

Harris led the Wolverines with 17 points, but Michigan got its
biggest contributions from two of its frontcourt players coming off
of the bench.

Sophomore Chris Hunter and freshman Brent Petway combined for 18
points and 10 rebounds, connecting on a combined 8-for-9 from the
charity stripe.

“I thought Chris Hunter’s minutes — his effort
in free-throw shooting and rebounding the ball — he’s
been a big difference for our team since he’s been back and
healthy,” Amaker said.

In the first half, Michigan held Oklahoma without a field goal
for nearly eight minutes and opened up a 10-point lead with just
under two minutes left to play.

But the Sooners rallied back behind a 3-pointer by guard Jason
Detrick and a follow-up dunk by forward Brandon Foust, pulling
within five heading into the lockerroom.

Oklahoma came out gunning in the second half, going on a 9-2 run
over the first four minutes, highlighted by two Foust tip-ins. The
Sooners took a 34-32 lead with 16:14 to play in the game, before
Michigan reclaimed the lead for good with just under 15 to
play.

“I think they were just outplaying us,” Harris said.
“They were playing harder than us when they went on that run.
Obviously we made some turnovers. We weren’t taking care of
the ball as much.”

Yesterday’s win gave Michigan its first 20-win season
since the 1997-98 campaign, when it went 25-9 and was eliminated in
the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan will next face Hawaii tomorrow at 9 p.m. at Crisler
Arena. Tickets for tomorrow’s NIT quarterfinal game went on
sale last night at about 11:30 p.m. and will continue to be sold
throughout today.

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