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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT : MIDWEST REGIONAL / AT WICHITA, KAN. : Michigan Best in the Stretch, Defeats Texas

March 20, 1994|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WICHITA, Kan. — Michigan has apparently mastered the fine art of walking a tightrope.

After surviving an overtime scare against Pepperdine in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional on Thursday, the Wolverines were tested again by Texas in the second round.

This time they had a little more margin for error. But only a little.

Behind junior Juwan Howard, who had a career-high 34 points and a season-high 18 rebounds, Michigan held on for an 84-79 victory in the Midwest Regional at the Kansas Coliseum.

"No matter what you say, this was a sweet win for us," Michigan Coach Steve Fisher said. "Texas is a great team, and it was great to beat them."

The third-seeded Wolverines (23-7) withstood a challenge by Texas in the final minute to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third season in a row.

Texas (26-8) closed to within 76-75 on a jumper in the lane and a free throw with 55.8 seconds to play.

But Michigan made all eight of its free throws after that to secure another victory. Guards Jimmy King and Jalen Rose each made four.

So what is the Wolverines' secret to winning the close ones?

"We're just a strong team, and we play well under pressure," forward Ray Jackson said. "Every team we've played in the tournament since I can remember has given us their best shot, and we've withstood it."

Michigan had every reason to expect the worst against Texas. The sixth-seeded Longhorns had won 19 of their last 20 games and defeated Western Kentucky by 14 points in the first round.

And, midway through the second half, Texas took a 58-52 lead on a dunk by forward Albert Burditt.

But Michigan regained control in the closing minutes, going ahead to stay at 68-66 on two free throws by Rose with 4:22 remaining.

Texas Coach Tom Penders gave much of the credit to Michigan's defense. The Wolverines were particularly effective in neutralizing the Longhorns' usually reliable three-point shooters.

The Longhorns made only five of 21 three-point shots and senior guard B.J. Tyler was only six of 24 from the field.

Despite his shooting difficulty, Tyler still led Texas with 22 points. Guard Terrence Rencher scored 16 points before fouling out late in the game.

For Michigan, Rose had 17 points, Jackson 15 points and 14 rebounds and King 12 points.

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