Michigan 70, UCLA 66
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP)—Just two days after his father died, Bernard Robinson Jr. used the court as an escape.
Robinson had 17 points and four assists in Michigan’s 70-66 victory over UCLA on Saturday while putting his non-basketball thoughts on hold.
“I prayed before the game, but I just wanted to focus on this game and UCLA,” he said. “I didn’t want to try to do too much.”
Carolyn Robinson called her son on Christmas to let him know the one-year battle his 52-year-old father, Bernard Robinson Sr., had with lung cancer was over. She encouraged him to stay with the team, and to fly home to Washington D.C. on Sunday.
He said it was the right decision.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “The coaches and my teammates did a great job of showing me love. It felt good to be here.”
Robinson did not know whether he would play Tuesday at home against Boston University because he did not know when his father’s funeral would be.
“I had a lot of respect for him before this, but now I have even more,” said teammate Daniel Horton, who scored a season-high 19 points to lead four Wolverines in double figures. “If my dad passed, I would’ve probably had to go home. It says a lot about Bernard that he stayed.”
The Wolverines (8-1) made just enough free throws and stops in the final minutes to hold on against the Bruins after leading by 11 with 4:38 left.
Michigan’s Courtney Sims tied a season-high with 12 points and blocked Cedric Bozeman’s shot in the final minute when the Bruins trailed by just four. Graham Brown scored a season-high 10 points and made consecutive baskets that gave Michigan a 67-60 lead with 1:47 left.
Following Brown’s field goals, Thompson’s 3-pointer made it 67-63 with 1:30 left. His fifth 3-pointer pulled UCLA within three with 7.6 seconds left.
“They are a lot tougher than they were last year,” said Horton, who helped Michigan beat UCLA 81-76 last season.
Dijon Thompson led the Bruins (4-3) with 21 points. Thompson made three of his five 3-pointers in the final minutes, but UCLA couldn’t get closer than three. Trevor Ariza scored 15 points and T.J. Cummings added 12 for the Bruins.
“We just had too many turnovers (20) against their pressure,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “And we didn’t capitalize on opportunities in the second half, but Michigan deserves some credit for that.”
UCLA has lost its three games—against Kentucky, UC Santa Barbara and Michigan—by a total of seven points.
“We’ve just got to use the experience of losing these close games to get better,” Ariza said.