Michigan 66, Fairfield 43
NEW YORK (AP)—Michigan had its first easy win away from Crisler Arena, and it came courtesy of defense.
Bernard Robinson Jr. scored 19 points and Donald Horton added 17 to lead the Wolverines to a 66-43 victory over Fairfield on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Michigan’s only other games away from home were a one-point overtime win against Butler in Indianapolis on Nov. 30, and a 20-point loss at Vanderbilt on Dec. 6.
This one was very different.
“Playing well on the road was something Coach Amaker was definitely harping on,” Robinson said. “We felt really confident about things as soon as the game was over because we did such a good job on team defense and we sustained it.”
Michigan (9-2), coming off a one-point loss to Boston University, scored the last 10 points of the first half to take a 30-19 lead. Then the Wolverines really turned up the defense, holding Fairfield (7-3) to two field goals over the first 8 minutes of the second half to take their first 20-point lead, 46-26 with 12:10 left on a 3-pointer by freshman Dion Harris.
Harris scored down low with 9:15 left to make it 52-28, the largest lead of the game.
“We’ve been a pretty solid defensive team but with so many young guys we have to keep it focused on that,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought we had a very solid team performance and we needed that because we were coming off a disappointing loss at home to a team that outplayed us on our home floor.”
Harris had 13 points for the Wolverines, who shot 26-for-55 from the field (47.3 percent), including 8-for-17 from 3-point range. Michigan was just 6-for-18 from the free throw line, missing seven of eight at one point in the second half as the Stags closed within 15.
“Certainly that is something we are very disappointed in, 6-for-18,” Amaker said of his team which came in shooting 67 percent from the line. “For us to be a factor in our conference and for us to have a successful year that has to improve.”
Kudjo Sogadzi had 11 points and Terrence Todd added 10 for the Stags, who were coming off an overtime loss to Hawaii in the championship game of the Rainbow Classic.
“Michigan played great, they didn’t let us do anything,” Fairfield coach Tim O’Toole said. “They took us out of everything we wanted to do. They manhandled us.”
Fairfield was just 8-for-30 in the second half (26.7 percent) and the Stags had 23 turnovers for the game which led to 27 points for Michigan.
“Maybe we were tired but Michigan just beat us and we have got a lot to learn,” O’Toole said.
The coaches were very familiar with each other. Amaker and O’Toole were both on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at Duke from 1995-97 and O’Toole was on Amaker’s staff at Seton Hall in 1997-98.
“I have known Timmy for a long, long time,” Amaker said. “I think the world of him and I hope he feels the same way about me.”