By Dan Jenkins, Staff Reporter
With just over two weeks remaining in the season, the University of Michigan-Dearborn Wolverines sit five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC).
The program hasn’t qualified for the annual postseason tournament since joining the conference in 2004 and the Wolverines have just five games remaining on the schedule, including contests with nationally ranked Davenport and Madonna.
The team’s playoff hopes took a major blow this week, losing to WHAC opponents Northwestern Ohio, 65-47, and Davenport, 82-60.
In a non-conference matchup on Thursday, during the second night of back-to-back games, the Wolverines put up a season-high 90 points against Great Lakes Christian College, a mark the program hasn’t reached since December 2010. UM-Dearborn downed GLCG 90-81 for its sixth win of the season.
Continuing his stellar play, freshman Brandon Cole netted a career-high 27 points on an astounding 10-of-12 shooting night. Cole said that he wasn’t doing anything special, but rather he was just the beneficiary of his teammates’ play.
“I just felt good going in,” Cole said. “My teammates were getting me a bunch of good looks because we were advancing the ball up the floor. It got me a lot of good looks and I was getting a lot of layups.”
Since being placed in the starting lineup on January 22, Cole is averaging 12.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and is shooting 48 percent from the field.
“Brandon was crazy,” teammate Dustin Sielski said of Cole’s performance. “He carried us in the second half which is a lot from a freshman, you don’t really expect them to contribute like that. The last few games, since he’s been in the starting lineup, he’s been our best player.”
Cole, at one point in the second half against GLCC, scored on six straight possessions for the Wolverines, giving them a 24-point lead.
“We were just getting good shots,” Cole said. “I think nine of my ten shots were just layups. A lot of times when I try to go in the lane, they will come out at me and I’ll try to dish the ball, but they cleared out and I just tried to finish strong at the rack.”
GLCC fought back and cut the lead to just five in the waning moments, but the Wolverines would eventually close the game out at the free throw line. Coach John Mackson stressed that his team needs to be better at closing out games.
“We took some shots that you can’t take when you’re leading a game with 1:20 to play,” Mackson said. “We just have to get better at understanding some of those things.”
The Wolverines did not have a chance to close out on Saturday as the team braved the weather and traveled to Grand Rapids to take on the No. 1 team in the WHAC, Cornerstone (21-3, 15-1).
The Wolverines fell behind late in the first half and were unable to recover in the second.
The next three games will be the last at home for the Wolverines: Davenport on Wednesday at 7:30 pm, Madonna on Feb. 12 at 7:30, and Senior Night against Siena Heights on Feb. 15 at 7:00 pm.
The Wolverines will honor four seniors following the game against Siena Heights, including captain Dustin Sielski, center Jeff Fick, forward A.J. Dombrowski, and guard Danny Calcaterra.