Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT
Updated: Thursday, April 1, 2004 10:58 PM EST
Recap | Box Score | Today's Scoreboard
Michigan 62, Rutgers 55

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Daniel Horton, freshman Dion Harris and Michigan overcame a partisan crowd and treated Madison Square Garden like home.

Horton scored 14 points and Harris added 13 as the Wolverines captured the National Invitation Tournament championship with a 62-55 triumph over Rutgers.

It was the fifth straight victory at Madison Square Garden for Michigan (23-11), which overcame a pro-Rutgers crowd and shaky free-throw shooting down the stretch to claim its third NIT title. The 1997 championship was vacated, however, due to violations involving former booster Ed Martin.

Before last season, the NCAA handed Michigan a two-year postseason ban and had the school remove banners acknowledging runner-up finishes in the NCAA Tournament in 1992 and 1993 as well as the 1998 Big Ten Conference tournament title. Last September, however, Michigan won its appeal and became eligible for postseason play.

"I am thrilled for our team and our program," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "To learn that we became postseason-eligible at the beginning of the year, we tried to make a move this season, and I think our players have done that in a fine fashion to make our university proud."

A layup by freshman Courtney Sims with 4:56 remaining snapped a 48-48 tie and triggered a 9-0 run by the Wolverines. Bernard Robinson Jr., a senior who was Michigan's only regularly contributing upperclassman, capped the burst with a free throw, opening a 57-48 lead with 1:02 to play.

Robinson missed his second attempt to start a stretch in which the Wolverines went just 3-of-9 from the line to give the Scarlet Knights several chances to come back.

But Rutgers got no closer than 59-55 after a layup by Marquis Webb with 18 seconds left and, after Harris split a pair from the line, Webb missed a driving layup and Horton sank two free throws to cap the scoring.

The Wolverines hope to follow the example set by the 1984 squad, which won the NIT before talking the Big Ten title each of the next two seasons.

"I think winning it gives us momentum going into next year, especially if we come in the spring with the guys, work hard and pay attention to detail," said Horton, the tournament MVP. "If we come in focused like that, the sky is the limit for this team."

Herve Lamizana collected 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks and Ricky Shields added 16 points for for Rutgers (20-13), which was playing in its first postseason tournament final. But freshman Quincy Douby, a Brooklyn native who scored a career-high 35 points against Iowa State in Tuesday's semifinals, was limited to two on 1-of-13 shooting.

"They did a great job on Douby," Rutgers coach Gary Waters said. "As a freshman, sometimes you end up pressing yourself. That happens. When you go with a young man like that, you have to live with a young man like that."

Robinson, Michigan's best defender, hounded Douby into 0-of-8 shooting in the first half.

"They had one of their best defenders on me," Douby said. "He did a good job of contesting most of my shots. He has a few inches on me, so every shot I took I had to put a little extra on it. A couple of times I had a pretty good look at the basket, but I kinda rushed it."

"Bernard Robinson is our best defensive player all season and certainly for my three years at Michigan," Amaker said. "He is a phenominal defensive player and he has great instincts. He is a very bright and has a great basketball IQ."

The Wolverines used an 11-0 run to take a 32-25 halftime lead, then opened its biggest advantage, 41-29, on a 3-pointer by Horton with 16 1/2 minutes to play. A layup by Shields with 10:56 remaining capped a 15-2 burst that gave Rutgers its last lead, 44-43.

© 2005 STATS, Inc