By JACK VANASSCHE, Sports Editor
Both the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s basketball team (RV) and No. 18 Indiana Tech were shooting the lights out on Wednesday night during a high-intensity game that may provide a sneak peek into tournament play.
Ultimately, the Warriors were able to defend their home court and stave off the Wolverines, 89-84, snapping UM-Dearborn’s (16-8, 10-6 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference) five-game winning streak.
“I think we were playing a really high level of basketball, and I don’t think that changed against Indiana Tech,” said UM-Dearborn coach Taylor Langley.
The shootout began immediately after tip-off when Wolverine forward Marcus Williams scored on a layup.
Indiana Tech’s (18-6, 13-3 WHAC) Miles Robinson immediately answered back with a three-pointer, letting all in attendance know to buckle up for the ride.
Robinson had himself quite the evening, stacking up 16 points in the first half alone.
“I think defensively we could have done a better job,” Langley said. “When you get two teams as talented as us and Indiana Tech, the games are going to come down to one or two mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes happened to go against us.”
At the end of the first half, the Wolverines trailed the Warriors by two at 41-39. Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half, and neither team committed more than four turnovers.
A clean shootout was the story of the first half, but quickly became the story of the game just minutes into the second half.
On the first possession out of halftime, Indiana Tech guard Tanner Watkins drained a three-pointer to put his team up by five.
After two free throws from the Wolverines, the Warriors sunk another three-pointer on their next touch, this time from CJ Bussey off the bench.
Bussey finished the game with 12 points, all of which came from his perfect three-point shooting (4-of-4).
Even with the Warriors’ accuracy from long range, the Wolverines never allowed their deficit to exceed seven points.
For every bucket, the Wolverines answered with one of their own.
With just over seven minutes remaining, freshman Cody Kegley’s shot from beyond the arc was good, pulling the Wolverines to within two points.
After an Indiana Tech miss, Kegley was fouled and sent to the line to shoot two free throws with a chance to tie the game.
Kegley, a freshman in a hostile environment, buried both free throws to tie the game at 69-69.
“He’s been playing great,” said Langley of Kegley, who finished the game with 15 points off the bench. “I think if he were on another team he would be starting– there’s just so much talent on our team.”
Kegley has scored at least 11 points off the bench for the Wolverines in each of the last three games.
Indiana Tech regained their lead immediately with Robinson layup that led to a three-point play.
With two minutes left, Xavier Crofford gave the Wolverines their first lead of the second half with a three-pointer to take an 81-80 advantage.
The Warriors countered with another three-pointer from Robinson, but Crofford responded with a layup and drew the foul. His free throw put his team back up by one.
With a minute and thirty seconds left to play, Bussey fouled UM-Dearborn’s Jeff Cain.
Cain, the team’s second best free throw shooter at 76 percent on the season, took to the line to shoot a one-and-one. He missed on his first attempt.
“When it left Jeff’s hand, I think everyone in there thought it was good,” Langley said.
Watkins shot on the ensuing Indiana Tech possession was wide, but a Lavonte Davis tip-in put the Warriors back on top.
Robinson sealed the game with four free throws in the final seconds. He finished with a game-high 37 points on 12-of-19 shooting with five three-pointers.
As a team, the Warriors shot 53 percent from the field (33-of-62) and 61 percent from three-point range (14-of-23).
The Wolverines shot 55 percent (32-of-58) from the field and 50 percent (10-of-20) on three-point attempts.
“I wasn’t upset with our guys after that game,” said Langley. “I don’t think Indiana Tech can play any better than they can as a team, and we were still right there with them at the end of the game.
“We shot the ball well, they shot the ball unbelievably well. As well as they played, which may have been their best game, we still had a chance to win the game under two minutes. It just wasn’t our way that night.”
The Wolverines got an off day on Saturday that Langley hopes will help his players rest up in preparation for the last six games of the regular season.
“A few of the guys were telling me they were getting colds, so I hope they got their sleep, got some cold medicine, some vitamin C and they’ll be alright.”
This week, the Wolverines return home to host Lawrence Tech University on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. followed by a 3 p.m. game with Marygrove College on Saturday.
“Six games left, four at home,” Langley said. “We really control our own destiny. We just have to win the game in front of us.”