Rarely does a narrow overtime victory over a 3-10 Big Ten team inspire confidence or hope in a fan, but I’d be lying if I said that last night’s performance by Michigan didn’t have me excited, at least temporarily. It may have been Iowa, it may have been meaningless to the Big Ten standings, and maybe it shouldn’t have been that close, but I can’t be angry when I see Michigan pull out a road game in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion. With the way this season has gone, nobody would have blamed the Wolverines for letting up down the stretch, when Aaron Fuller kept making big shots and Iowa held a five-point lead with 22 seconds to play. Instead, Michigan’s big man hit some big shots of his own, and the Wolverines were able to pull out a great overtime victory on the road. The fans may have given up on this team a long time ago (I know I’ve said some things to that effect), but this team continues to fight to the bitter end. You have to tip your cap to John Beilein for that.
If you told me before the game that Michigan would hit over 50% of their threes, I would have expected a blowout victory. Instead, Michigan had to battle with an equally-scorching Iowa squad that was lighting it up from outside and riding the hot hand of Fuller (30 points and 13 rebounds) inside. This wasn’t anywhere close to Michigan’s best defensive effort, but the offense carried the day. We haven’t been able to say that much this season. While you’d certainly hope that the team would play better D, it was nice to see the team find its shooting stroke (at least from the outside).
- This wasn’t DeShawn Sims’ best effort, as he struggled to hit his inside shots (10-25 from the field), but he hit the biggest shot of the game when the team ran a play specifically to get him an open jumper, and you can’t ask for much more than that from your senior leader. Sims managed to battle through the game despite not quite having it all night, and he ended up with 27 points — to me, that’s the sign of a really good player.
- Manny Harris also struggled from two-point range, going 3-10 on the night, but he finished 4-7 from three (including a few pull-up shots that had every Michigan fan cringing until they went in), pulled down 10 boards, and added seven assists. When Manny was struggling to create his own shot, he was able to find open teammates and help the offense with his passing. Again, it’s great to see your stars finding ways to make the team better when they’re not having their best game — Manny managed to be effective despite not having his bread-and-butter (getting to the hoop) and made some big plays in overtime to help lift the team to victory. Yes, he had six turnovers, but Manny’s good plays offset his poor ones.
- Stu Douglass started hot, hitting two early threes, but then disappeared from the stat sheet until he hit a huge three in overtime. While it’s nice to see him hit that late shot, we need more production from Douglass — three rebounds, no assists, and two turnovers is not what you want from a guy playing 42 minutes at guard.
- Zack Novak put up a nice overall stat line — 3-5 from the field (all his attempts from three) for nine points, four rebounds, five assists, a steal, and no turnovers, but you can’t talk about his game last night without mentioning that he was the main guy guarding Fuller, who routinely abused Novak in the post. It’s tough to put too much of that on Novak — on any normal team, he wouldn’t be guarding power forwards — but you’d still like to see Novak hold his guy under 30.
- Darius Morris has made a lot of progress in the last few weeks, but last night he was a complete nonfactor — 26 minutes, no points, 0-3 from the field, two rebounds, two assists. Games like this make you remember that he’s still a very raw, freshman point guard getting his first taste of Big Ten basketball.
- Laval Lucas-Perry briefly caught fire in the first half, hitting three consecutive three-pointers to help stake the Wolverines to a nice first-half cushion (that completely disappeared by halftime). He finished with his best stat line since early January, scoring 13 points on 3-5 shooting, hitting 4-4 free throws, and adding five rebounds and two assists. I’ll never understand how LLP can have games like this and then completely disappear for a month, but it’s always nice to see him step up.
- Zack Gibson finished with three blocks in just 12 minutes, but didn’t haul in a single rebound, which is somewhat unacceptable for a 6-10 college basketball player. Michigan went with Sims down the stretch, obviously, and it’s way too late in his career to complain about how limited Gibson is — at this point, he is what he is, which is a guy who can block a couple shots, eat up some minutes in the middle, and is a very inconsistent offensive player.
For more on last night’s game, check out the recap from UMHoops.