Lucas-Perry shakes slump

Daily Sports Editor
Published February 17, 2009

It seemed like a dream — Laval Lucas-Perry sunk his first shot as a member of the Michigan basketball team.

And then the next one. And the next. And the one after that.

The Michigan fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills that day in December cheered louder and louder for Lucas-Perry with each successive bucket. The redshirt freshman transfer from Arizona had to sit out the first semester this season because of NCAA rules. In his first day back on the court, he exploded out of the gate, pouring in 14 points on Dec. 20 against Oakland.

For a team with an already-impressive NCAA Tournament résumé, Lucas-Perry’s arrival was perfect. Another hot-handed shooter seemed to be exactly what the Wolverines needed entering Big Ten play.

And it just kept getting better for the Flint native — 10 points against Wisconsin, 13 against Illinois, a career-high 18 at Indiana and a six-game double-digit scoring streak in his first six games in a maize-and-blue uniform.

"I'm a shooter, and shooters shoot the ball well and they create," Lucas-Perry said after the Oakland game. "I just went out there and just got my shot going. Three hundred and sixty five days is a long time, and I think I was ready for this moment."

With sophomore Manny Harris leading the team, junior DeShawn Sims down low and Lucas-Perry and freshmen sharpshooters Stu Douglass and Zack Novak hitting 3-pointers, Michigan seemed like a sure-thing NCAA Tournament team.

Then the wheels fell off — both for the Wolverines and Lucas-Perry. Before scoring 10 points in Sunday’s 70-67 overtime win at Northwestern, Lucas-Perry had scored more than five points just three times since Jan. 17. He hadn’t scored in double digits since his career day against Indiana on Jan. 7.

His minutes dwindled, too. He bottomed out at Connecticut on Feb. 7, scoring just one point in eight minutes of play.

And during his slump, Michigan struggled to a 3-7 record from Jan. 11 to Feb. 10. But the Wolverines toppled Northwestern this weekend, with Lucas-Perry entering the double-digit column.

Lucas-Perry seemed to get back into form against Northwestern, scoring 10 points, including a clutch 3-pointer that gave Michigan a one-point lead midway through the second half.

“They're tough to play against for a guy that's just trying to assimilate into this kind of basketball in the Big Ten,” Beilein said after the game Northwestern game Sunday. “It's been difficult for him.”

Before the game, Beilein instilled his trust in his young guard.

"I think my confidence is back," Lucas-Perry said. "(Beilein) told me, 'Keep shooting. Great shooters always shoot,' and I believe it's going in every time. You've got to find a way to score."

Lucas-Perry is coming out of his freshman slump, and Michigan grabbed a much-needed conference road win — both critical steps in Michigan's late-season push for an NCAA Tournament bid.