By JERAMY STOVER, Staff Reporter
After erasing a 16-point deficit in last Saturday’s win against Lourdes, the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s basketball team had gained the momentum it needed to make a late season push for the playoffs.
But after splitting a pair of conference games last week, the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to look very dim.
The Wolverines defeated Lawrence Tech in double overtime on Wednesday, 71-69. On Saturday, UM-Dearborn traveled to Madonna where it fell victim to the Crusaders, 66-57.
The Blue Devils led UM-Dearborn by one after the first half. Jason Penn already had totaled seven points and seven rebounds for the Wolverines.
Balazs Juhasz made a lay-up with 11 seconds left in the first half to get the lead within a baskets reach going into the final half.
With the game tied at 51, Penn threw down a dunk that catapulted his team into the lead with 2:37 to play.
With the Wolverines up by one with two seconds left, Jon Harden knocked down a free throw to send the game into overtime.
In the second overtime Harden would come through in the clutch yet again. Paul Standtke made a free throw with 25 seconds left to give his team a three point lead.
But with just 10 seconds left Harden would knock down three free throws to force a second overtime.
With 14 seconds left and the game tied, UM-Dearborn coach Taylor Langley called a timeout to give his team instructions.
The timeout paid off as Brandon Cole made a lay-up with two seconds left to give the Wolverines a two point win.
On Saturday, the Wolverines made the short trip to Madonna in hopes to complete the season sweep.
Jamiel Strickland scored 11 of his 18 points in the first half, including the Wolverines’ last four points of the half.
Madonna would knock down four triples in the first half that would give it the lead going into the locker room 35-29.
UM-Dearborn would start the second half looking good. The Wolverines scored on consecutive possessions to start the half including a Penn dunk.
But then the game would seem downhill from there. Madonna would go on a 12-1 run near the middle of the half. During this stretch UM-Dearborn would go on a 4:05 scoring drought.
Penn would end the scoreless streak on a lay-up, but after the Wolverines would go scoreless again for another three minutes.
By the time the Wolverines would find their offensive stride again the game would be out of reach.
The Crusaders would hit their largest lead of the night when Khalil Malone knocked down a two point shot to give Madonna an 18 point lead.
The Wolverines would claw back to bring the lead down to its final resting place of 66-57.
“It wasn’t our best game, we just had some easy points we missed on the boards, got to make some easy ones, got to come up with the ball when it’s really needed,” said Strickland. “That’s the main thing we could’ve played better I expect a lot from our team.”
Cole would finish with 11 points and five rebounds while Penn ended the game totaling eight points and 11 rebounds.
The noticeable difference in the two teams’ plays was the will to win. Madonna dominated getting to the loose ball. Many of the 50-50 balls would be scooped up by a Crusader.
Langley was displeased in the way his team played. He noted that the difference in the second half was that Madonna played harder and more together than the Wolverines.
“I’m just disappointed, our guys had a monumental opportunity to come through and show the type of character that they’ve created for themselves and we just didn’t,” Langley said. “We just have to keep playing it one game at a time and hope for the best.”
Gage Throgmorton, who contributed with nine points, explained that the main thing his team needs to work on is the one thing you can’t practice.
“At this point in the season, we know all the plays, we know each other, we know what to do, at this point it’s just all hustle, it’s heart,” Throgmorton said.
With just one week left in the season the Wolverines have two games left to try and make the playoffs.
They play Indiana Tech at home on Wednesday, Feb. 18, which will also be Senior Night. Then they travel to Concordia on Saturday, Feb. 21.