Utah State Falls to Michigan in NIT 68-58

Utah State Falls to Michigan in NIT 68-58

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Brent Petway wishes Michigan could have played all of its games at home this season.

The Wolverines tied their record for home-court wins in a season Tuesday with a 68-58 victory over Utah State in the first round of the NIT. Michigan has an 18-3 record at Crisler Arena this year, equaling the mark set in the 1985-86 season.

Jerret Smith had 15 points and freshman DeShawn Sims came off the bench to score a career-high 14 to help Michigan (22-12) advance to the second round, where they will play at No. 2 seed Florida State on Thursday.

"If we played all our games at home we might go through the season losing only two or three," Petway said. "When we play at home, we always think we can win. I don't know what happens when we're on the road. I can't explain it."

Michigan broke away midway through the first half. Utah State closed the margin late, but the Wolverines fought back and put the game away with a 12-0 run in the closing minutes.

"We have a chip on our shoulder and I think every team in this tournament does," Petway said. "There were a lot of teams on that bubble to make the NCAA tournament and they feel like we do.

"We want our season to go on and show people that we're a good team."

Michigan is making its third appearance in the NIT in the last four years. The Wolverines have advanced to the finals in their last two appearances, winning the title in 2004 and losing to South Carolina last season.

Michigan built a 14-point cushion at the start of the second half, but Utah State used a 13-8 run to pull within 49-43 with 12:54 left. Durrall Peterson's 3-pointer with 8:14 remaining cut the deficit to 54-53.

The Wolverines scored 12 straight points to rebuild the lead to 66-53 with 2:25 left. Smith had seven points and Lester Abram added five in the run.

"We changed up our defense and went to a zone defense a couple times," said Michigan coach Tommy Amaker. "We felt like we had to get some stops. We've watched film of this team, and every film that I've seen they've been done big and they were able to always battle back."

Jaycee Carroll had 22 points and Kris Clark and Peterson added nine apiece for the Aggies (23-12), who were in their second NIT in four years. Utah State has lost seven straight postseason games and last won in the 2001 NCAA tournament against Ohio State.

"We've had a history of these types of games this year," said Utah State coach Stew Morrill. "We've gotten down in games and we keep fighting. But tonight it was our fourth game in six days. It was hard to have the energy that we needed.

"We were in the game with five minutes to go but Michigan got stops and kept us from scoring."

There were 11 lead changes and one tie before Michigan took control with a 20-7 run to close the first half, giving the Wolverines a 40-28 advantage. Sims scored 11 points, including seven during the spurt.

The Wolverines played before a crowd of only 3,114 -- the lowest attendance for a home game during Amaker's stint as head coach. The previous low was 4,400 on March 16, 2006, in a first-round NIT game against Texas El-Paso.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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