Michigan Wolverines late scare by Titans conjures up 1976-77 tourney game


The Michigan Wolverines basketball team had quite a scare from the Detroit-Mercy Titans Thursday night before U-M (3-0) hung on to defeat the Titans (1-2),71-62 Thursday night.

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The close game conjured up thoughts of another Michigan-Detroit battle 38 years ago.

It was a second-round game in the 1976-77 NCAA tournament when both Detroit and Michigan were legitimate national powers. Michigan (25-3), which lost to Indiana in the 1975-76 national final, was ranked No. 1 in the nation going into the tournament.

The Titans (24-3), which defeated eventual national title winner Marquette, was only ranked No. 12, since they were a disrespected independent.

Future NBA stars

Detroit won its first round game 93-76 over Middle Tennessee while the Michigan Wolverines knocked off Holy Cross 92-81 to set up the I-94 classic.

The cast of characters? Well, several players on each side were headed to the NBA. For Michigan, Ricky Green, Steve Grote, Phil Hubbard, Dave Baxter, Joel Thompson and Johnny Robinson were all drafted into the NBA.

For Detroit, Terry Duerod, Earl Cureton,Terry Tyler, John Long, Dennis Boyd and Ron Bostick were selected.

Orr v. Vitale

Coaches? Wow. Eventual ESPN icon Dick Vitale accumulated a 78-30 in the great atmosphere known as Callihan Hall. Vitale was not only a great coach, he was the team’s leading cheerleader. (Vitale moved on to coach the Detroit Pistons for one-plus seasons before joining ESPN).

Johnny Orr, who coached the Wolverines from (1968-80), had a record of 209-113 including a final-game appearance in 1975-76.

The game’s biggest matchup was between centers Tyler and Hubbard. Both went on to lengthy NBA careers after being drafted by Detroit when Vitale  moved onto the Pistons job—Tyler in 1978 and Hubbard in 1979.

Neither was big enough to play center in the NBA, but both were more than adequate in the collegiate ranks.

Hubbard crashes the boards

During the NCAA tournament battle, Michigan made the difference by controlling the paint and going to the free-throw line 11 more times. Tyler, who held his own with 19 points and nine rebounds, was no match for the athletic Hubbard, who scored 22 points, pulled down 26 rebounds and made six of seven free throws. Michigan’s Johnny Robinson and Detroit’s John Long tallied 25 points as there was no three-point arc as yet.

The Titans hung within 10 points most of the second half, but Michigan eventually prevailed 86-81.

The Wolverines lost to Cornbread Maxwell and North Carolina-Charlotte, 75-68. in the next round. Maxwell went on the have an illustrious NBA career, including earning the NBA Finals MVP in 1981.

Michigan and Detroit have met 29 times over the years with the Wolverines holding a 25-3 series lead.

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Bolded players and coaches names are linked to sports-reference, an enhanced statistics website.