ANN ARBOR, MI - Avery Smith scored 23 points but it was not enough to overcome 26 points from Courtney Sims as the University of Michigan claimed a hard-fought 66-59 win over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wednesday night at Crisler Arena.
Milwaukee led by five early in the second half and was still within four with under a minute to play but the Wolverines made five free throws to seal the win.
Paige Paulsen added 13 points and seven rebounds while Kevin Massiah had 10 points and seven boards for the Panthers (1-3), who put a major scare into a Wolverine team that was receiving votes in both of this week's national polls.
Dion Harris added 17 for Michigan (4-0), but it was the 6-foot-10 Sims that proved unstoppable for UWM.
The Panthers recovered from a slow start to claim the halftime lead. Michigan scored the first eight points of the game before Milwaukee countered with 10 of the next 12 points to tie the game at 10 just five minutes in. The Wolverines rebuilt a six-point lead at 21-15 but a three by Allan Hanson and a free throw by Sam Mauldin brought the Panthers within 21-19 with 4:57 remaining.
After Michigan pushed its lead back to four at 25-21, the Panthers held the Wolverines scoreless over the final four minutes of the half in taking over the lead. A three by Paulsen brought the Panthers within a point before a three by Smith gave UWM a 27-25 advantage it would carry into the locker room.
A three by Paulsen with 16:38 to play in the game made it 34-29, but the Wolverines countered with the next 12 points for a 41-34 lead. They could not shake the Panthers, though, who pulled within a point at 43-42 on two free throws by Smith and were still within two at 49-47 after another basket by Smith.
The Wolverines then turned to Sims, who scored 10-straight points to give Michigan a 61-54 lead with 2:27 left. A Smith three pulled Milwaukee to within 61-57 with 47.3 seconds remaining, but UWM could get no closer.