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Published: Sunday, 12/19/2010

Wolverines hold off upset-minded Oakland

Michigan's Darius Morris goes to the basket past Oakland's Ryan Bass. Morris had 18 points for the Wolverines. Michigan's Darius Morris goes to the basket past Oakland's Ryan Bass. Morris had 18 points for the Wolverines.
DUANE BURLESON / AP Enlarge

ANN ARBOR -- Every time Keith Benson caught the ball, there seemed to be two or three defenders nearby.

Michigan held Benson to 11 points Saturday in a 69-51 win over Oakland, Mich. The Wolverines practically dared Benson's teammates to shoot from the outside, and the Golden Grizzlies went 6 of 31 from 3-point range, falling short in their bid for another big victory.

Oakland beat No. 7 Tennessee earlier in the week. The 6-foot-11 Benson scored 26 points in that game but didn't have much space against Michigan, which held the Golden Grizzlies to 30 percent shooting.

"It's a great win for us," Michigan guard Darius Morris said. "That team is a mid-major team that's been playing at a high-major level."

Morris scored 18 points for Michigan, which has won six straight. The Wolverines (9-2) led 29-21 after the first half, then scored the first seven points of the second. A 3-pointer by Tim Hardaway, Jr., made it 44-24, and Michigan eventually led 49-27 after a basket by Zack Novak.

"A test for us always is the first couple minutes of the second half," Morris said. "That's when you can win or lose a game."

The Golden Grizzlies (6-6) cut the deficit to 10 but Michigan held them at bay, earning a standing ovation from the home crowd late in the game.

Oakland, which is located in Rochester, Mich., nearly upset Michigan State a week ago but lost by a point.

Novak had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Hardaway added 10 points for Michigan.

Reggie Hamilton scored 23 points for Oakland, including six 3-pointers. His teammates, however, missed all 17 of their attempts from beyond the arc as Michigan left plenty of open space on the perimeter.

Little was expected from the Wolverines this year after a disappointing 2009-10 and the loss of guard Manny Harris, who left early for the NBA draft. Although it remains to be seen how they'll fare in Big Ten play, they've impressed so far, beating Clemson and Utah and losing a close game to No. 5 Syracuse.

Michigan's Jordan Morgan did his best against the 6-foot-11 Benson despite a 3-inch height disadvantage, and he had plenty of help.

"It was kind of just a double team, and then the other three people were sinking in the paint," Benson said.

Although Michigan relies quite a bit on outside shooting, the Wolverines attempted a dozen fewer 3-pointers than Oakland. Michigan went 6 of 19 from 3-point range.

Michigan led by eight at halftime after Benson attempted only three shots in the half. As the Wolverines pulled away in the second half, Benson even attempted a 3-pointer, only the 13th try from beyond the arc of the senior's career.

Tempers flared early on with Michigan's Evan Smotrycz and Oakland's Ilija Milutinovic picking up technical fouls after a mini-skirmish near the basket.

"I loved our intensity," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I think our kids are real hungry and they want to win, and they want to win the right way."



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