Fatigue? Poor Execution? Bad judgment?

Whatever the cause, Michigan’s last two Big Ten losses have one noticeable similarity: Guards Daniel Horton and Dion Harris, the team’s two most valuable shooters, have combined to shoot less than 25 percent from the floor in the second half.

Even though Harris and Horton combined for 32 points in Saturday’s 72-61 loss to Wisconsin, the duo shot just 31.4 percent from the floor.

“We haven’t shot the ball this poorly in a while,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “We had to take some tough shots being behind, trying to scramble and catch up. Certainly I thought our shooting went away from us.”

Horton and Harris combined to shoot just 4-for-18 in the second half against the Badgers. At Indiana on Wednesday, Horton and Harris converted just 3-of-14 second-half shot attempts.

“What it comes down to is our execution,” Harris said. “We feel if we execute our plays and our offense the way we’re supposed to that we should be able to get good shots. For the past two games, that hasn’t happened.”

Amaker admitted he didn’t have an answer for Michigan’s poor shooting lately, especially in the second half.

“I don’t know if we were fatigued and rushing things a little bit,” Amaker said. “I sense that. (Saturday) afternoon was a little different than the last game because we got behind by double-digits.

“We were trying to get back in it. When you’re speeding it up, you’re running the risk of maybe rushing on the offensive end.”

Horton — who was helped off the court after injuring his right knee with just under two minutes remaining — played most of the second half in foul trouble. When the junior was off the court in stretches because of his fouls, Harris had a tougher time finding open shots. When the sophomore attacked the basket, he often drew a foul but had trouble finishing in the paint. Harris quickly created short-range jumpers or running floaters, mostly without screens or picks from teammates.

“Harris is only a sophomore,” Wisconsin sophomore Kammron Taylor said. “I think he’s the leading scorer, so I’m pretty sure he had the green light to shoot the ball. When you tell a young kid that, they are going to make poor decisions. But taking a lot of shots, you got to be able to hit them. And good thing for us, he didn’t hit them.”

Harris said that Amaker allows the guards to create shots and that Wisconsin’s defense — which has held opponents to a conference-best 59.6 points per game this season — didn’t contribute to the poor shooting.

“I don’t think they were forcing us into tough shots,” Harris said. “We didn’t make certain shots that we normally make.”

Most of Horton’s 13 missed shot attempts were also runners or short jumpers that he was forced to create. And in the latter part of the second half, whenever one was shooting, the other wasn’t looking to shoot. During one stretch late in the second half, with both guards on the floor, Horton took seven shots while Harris did not attempt one.

Harris said: “I think it would help if we really knew when to take certain shots and took them at great times. When you come down on a fast break and pull up for a shot with no passes, we got to know when to take those type of shots and when not to.”

Amaker openly criticized the play of Michigan’s backcourt after its loss to Indiana — in particular its inability to take care of the basketball. And in the first half against the Badgers, Horton and Harris responded with solid play. They combined for 20 of Michigan’s 32 first-half points.

“I think we were aggressive offensively and trying to attack and just trying to score more and trying to create more (in the first half),” Harris said. “We didn’t think Wisconsin could guard us on the perimeter off the dribble. We really tried to attack.”

Though Horton and Harris missed a combined 24 shots against the Badgers, they did help shut down Wisconsin starters Clayton Hanson, Sharif Chambliss and forward Alando Tucker. The trio — which had averaged a combined 32 points per game coming into the contest — totaled just 12 points on 2-for-16 shooting.

Horton was unavailable for comment following the game because doctors were tending to his injured right knee.

 

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