Arizona rallies from eight points down to stun Michigan, and DePaul reaches a historical milestone

Catching up on the last two plus days of college hoops action:

Wednesday night saw North Dakota State stun the Fighting Irish in snowy South Bend, 73-69.  It was a closely fought battle as both teams did not have more than a six point cushion at any time during the game.  Marshall Bjorklund led all scorers with 26 points in the third round of the Gotham Classic at Purcell Pavilion.

Lawrence Alexander tabbed a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds to help the Bison (7-3) earn their fifth straight win.  Pat Connaughton scored 21 to lead Notre Dame, who suffered their second home loss before conference play.  Mike Brey’s crew is 7-3 heading into a Saturday afternoon showdown with Indiana (again, weather permitting with a nasty lake effect snowstorm heading into North Central Indiana).

Thursday saw the once famous teams in college basketball history earn a historic milestone.  At Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois (formerly known at the Rosemont Horizon for all of you history buffs out there), DePaul won their 1,400th game as a school getting by a determined group from Florida Atlantic 81-70.  The Blue Demons have been playing basketball since the 1923-24 season, and although they have suffered through many lean years since Ray and Joey Meyer left their footprints on the private, basketball only school during the last half of the 20th century–could there be a slow turnaround similar to what is taking place with the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central division?Only time will tell.

But Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor proved to be quite a slugfest.  Michigan held a 37-28 halftime lead, mostly by evoking memories of Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s by simply fast breaking up and down the court for easy baskets.  2013 NCAA Tournament breakout star Mitch McGary pushed the lead to double digits with a dunk to start the second half. But Arizona went on an 11-2 run to pull within two.  Michigan then led 58-50 before Arizona’s inside game eventually decided the outcome.

Nick Johnson made six free throws over the final 25 seconds, and No. 1 Arizona held on for a 72-70 victory over Michigan on Saturday after rallying from an 11-point deficit in the second half.

The Wolverines (6-4) led by one when Johnson drew a foul attempting a driving layup with 24.6 seconds left.  He made both free throws, while Michigan’s Nik Stauskas missed at the other end. After a tie-up, the possession arrow stayed with the Wildcats.  9.5 seconds remained on the clock.

Johnson pushed the lead to three with two more free throws, and Arizona fouled Spike Albrecht at the other end. Albrecht made only one of two free throws.  Johnson made two more freebies to make it 71-67, but Albrecht made things interesting by draining a 3-pointer with two seconds left.  Arizona’s Gabe York added a free throw to end the scoring.

Brandon Ashley scored 18 points for Arizona, which finally wore down Michigan inside in the final minutes. The Wildcats finished with 17 offensive rebounds, and although they only outscored the Wolverines 34-28 in the paint, that was enough.

Glenn Robinson III had a game high 20 points for Michigan, including a nifty up-and-under move as part of his 8 for 9 shooting from the field, plus going 2 of 3 from the free-throw line.  However, the potential 2014 NBA Draft lottery pick candidate did most of his damage in the first half. Caris LeVert contributed 15 points for the Wolverines in a losing cause.  Even though Michigan shot an even 50 percent for the game, rebounding was the deciding factors getting mauled on the boards, 33 to 21.

This game would definitely be filed as a good loss for the Wolverines.  Had they lost by double digits, with Arizona enjoying top dog status for the first time in over a decade probably would have not satisfied the Committee when it comes time to seeding and bracketing the teams come Selection Sunday.  Things were also not smooth sailing on Arizona’s side of the ledger when Kaleb Tarcewski appeared to have suffered an injury around his right leg at the midway point of the second half.  Trainers checked him out on the bench and then was cleared to resume playing a few minutes after the under 8 minute TV time out.

Elsewhere early Saturday afternoon, Northern Iowa got a statement win over VCU 77-68 and Pittsburgh remains unbeaten at 10-0 throttling Youngstown State, 91-73.

Hope to provide an update of the late afternoon and some of the evening games if I get some time.

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