The storyline from Michigan’s 64-55 victory over Penn State practically wrote itself — after bricking their way to a 16-point halftime deficit and starting the game 0-14 from the three-point line, Michigan found their shooting stroke, ending the game on a blistering 38-13 run and hitting seven of their last 13 threes. The struggling Laval Lucas-Perry got much of the postgame attention after scoring 16 points and hitting four second-half threes, giving Michigan (at least for one game) the third scoring option they’ve been looking for all season.
The story for me, however, was the second straight outstanding game turned in by DeShawn Sims, the Wolverines’ enigmatic big man who scored 25 points on 12-for-17 shooting, four days after dropping 28 in Michigan’s victory over Ohio State.
Sims’ talent is undeniable — he possesses a very nice array of post moves to complement a solid mid-range shooting stroke — but far too often he seems to disappear from the offense for large stretches of time, or become content to launch long-range jumpers instead of heading to the post. His inconsistency has played a huge role in Michigan’s Jekyll-and-Hyde act this season. Just check out his averages this season in Michigan wins versus Wolverine losses:
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Admittedly, these stats are somewhat skewed by early-season competition — games against Northern Michigan, Houston Baptist, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Detroit, and Coppin State make up five of Michigan’s eight wins. Regardless of the competition, however, the disparity between those numbers is far too great to ignore. In essentially the same amount of playing time (32 min/game in wins, 30 in losses), Sims is either an all-conference quality performer or a pedestrian, undersized center who can’t shoot. Not only does he struggle to produce offensively when he’s not on his game, but Sims almost completely disappears from the defensive glass — it’s as if he isn’t able to keep himself mentally involved in the game if he’s not producing from the opening tip.
I have no idea how to explain this. The quality of competition certainly plays a role, but not enough to explain why he becomes invisible when the chips are down. All I know is, when Sims took the ball at the top of the key, made an aggressive drive to his right, and finished an and-one with a punishing power layup over Penn State’s Andrew Ott last night, all I could say was, “Where the hell has that been?” Maybe John Beilein lit a fire under his ass before the Ohio State game, and told him just how important Sims’ performance was to the team. Maybe Sims realized his NBA stock was plummeting with every no-show. Whatever the reason, hopefully this is the DeShawn Sims that we see for the rest of the season. If it is, Michigan may just have a shot at the tourney after all.