Dec 28, 2002
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES - With its program sullied by NCAA violations and a six-game losing streak to open the season, Michigan restored some of its dignity against another storied program that has fallen on hard times.
Freshman Daniel Horton scored 24 points and made a career-high seven of Michigan's 11 3-pointers as the Wolverines defeated UCLA 81-76 Saturday to win their fifth in a row.
"He's such an outstanding shooter when he gets a few to drop in," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "To have a freshman play as well as he played on the road against such a great program as UCLA says a lot about him."
The Bruins (2-5) lost their third in a row and were beaten in a nationally televised game for the third time this season. Unlike their one-sided losses to No. 3 Duke and No. 19 Kansas, the Bruins were competitive in the second half.
But that was no consolation to Jason Kapono, who was held to a season-low five points before fouling out in the closing seconds. His scoring average has dropped by more than five points in the Bruins' last three defeats.
"I never thought that my senior year I'd be in such a bad rhythm. It's definitely tough," he said. "When you're playing like this, there's only one way to go. We just got to flush these losses and come out and find a way to play free."
The Wolverines (5-6) have their longest winning streak since 1999-2000, when they opened 6-0. They lost their first six games this season, but their struggles were overshadowed by the disclosure of NCAA violations committed during the 1990s by the Fab Five team.
"We have to get to the point where we're closing games out. It's baby steps right now. We understand that we're a good team. It's just a couple minutes of mistakes that put us on the losing side."
-- UCLA's T.J. Cummings
"It's out of our hands," Horton said. "Right now we're focusing on things we can control, and that's how we play."
The Wolverines appear to be on an upswing recently, having won a non-conference road game for the first time since December 1998.
"We've never thought too far in the past, and we're not ever thinking too far in the future," Amaker said. "Given what we've gone through this year, this speaks volumes to their character and tenacity."
The Bruins, meanwhile, fell to 2-5 at Pauley Pavilion this season, including two exhibition losses. Saturday's defeat was their third non-conference loss at home this season, one of only 11 such losses since 1989-1990.
"Both teams are struggling, but they've won five in a row," Kapono said. "They're playing well. They've figured out how to win, and we're on that path."
For the fifth straight game, the Wolverines had three players in double figures. Bernard Robinson Jr. and LaVell Blanchard had 18 points each. Michigan also controlled the boards, 36-31.,
"We just had a young team and knew once we all started playing together we'd be OK," Robinson said. "A lot of things have been said about us, but Coach has told us we just need to keep our heads up and play hard and good things will start to happen. It's starting to happen for us."
T.J. Cummings led UCLA with 19 points.
"We have to get to the point where we're closing games out. It's baby steps right now," Cummings said. "We understand that we're a good team. It's just a couple minutes of mistakes that put us on the losing side."
Horton had his way on the perimeter when the Bruins failed to defend outside. He made 18 3-pointers all season before having a career day against UCLA. He hit four in the first half, and the Wolverines led 43-36 at the break. He hit three to give Michigan its largest lead, 63-47, with 12:55 remaining.
"I knew what building this was. I've even met Coach Wooden," Horton said. "I had to put all that aside and just play basketball."
The Bruins responded with a 9-0 run, capped by Jon Crispin's 3-pointer to trail 63-56. But the Wolverines ran off five straight points to get back to a double-digit lead.
UCLA got within six with 4:28 remaining on a three-point play by Kapono. But the Bruins were never able to take the lead.
UCLA was without Dijon Thompson, who has averaged 17 points in 27 minutes this season. He has a swollen knee and rested Saturday in preparation for the start of Pac-10 play next week.
It was Michigan's first-ever victory at Pauley, but the Wolverines trail in the series 7-2, not including a 1993 NCAA tournament overtime victory that was forfeited by Michigan this year.