COLUMBUS-I’m not exactly sure what freshman Manny Harris told his teammates during this week’s players-only meeting.
But if you need a motivational speaker for your next business meeting, Harris is your guy.
Sophomore Ekpe Udoh shot 3-for-4 (seven points) and grabbed five rebounds.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Wright scored eight points and had a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Freshman Kelvin Grady shot 50 percent from beyond the arc and scored 11 points – his highest point total since Dec. 12 against Central Michigan.
It seems like a lot of Harris’s teammates paid attention to what he said in that meeting, but the player who didn’t take the message to heart was Harris himself.
The team’s leading scorer put up just seven points in 35 minutes. He had a chance to carry the team on his back, make plays near the end of the game and lead Michigan to its first significant road win since 2003.
It wasn’t because of a lack of effort. Instead, he literally passed up the opportunity.
“I just tried to be patient with (the game) and let it come to me and basically pass,” Harris said. “Today I was looking to pass and let everything else come to me. I didn’t want to rush anything.”
Rushing has been the Wolverines’ biggest problem offensively, and Harris has been the biggest culprit.
All of a sudden, the player who drove aggressively to the lane was content with running along the perimeter. For the first time all year, he didn’t reach the free-throw line. When the team needed its leading scorer the most, he was too busy looking for someone else to make a play.
As a freshman, Harris still has a lot to learn about playing at the college level. One of those lessons is that he has to trust himself. He’s one of just a few Big Ten players with the skill to break out of an offensive system and create his own plays.
At Wisconsin, Harris dropped 26 points in a hostile environment, mostly from driving to the basket. And even though he hasn’t reached the free-throw line much in recent games, Harris is by far the team leader in drawing fouls. He has taken 128 shots from the charity strip. The next highest total on the team is 55.
But Harris wasn’t the only top scorer who found trouble scoring last night. Sophomore DeShawn Sims scored just six points in 15 minutes.
The two top scorers on the team combined to score 13 points in a winnable game against their archrival.
That can’t happen.
Ohio State’s defense was tough. The Buckeyes deserve credit for harassing the Wolverines and forcing tough shots the last eight and a half minutes of the game.
But all good teams tighten up at the end of games, and Ohio State won’t be the only one giving Michigan fits in the waning moments of a close contest.
Michigan had a chance to win and shrunk under pressure, despite playing with confidence for most of the game.
And it all started with the kid who was willing to challenge his older teammates.
There certainly wasn’t a lack of effort on Harris’s part – just a lack of killer instinct.
Let’s see him challenge his teammates on the court, too.
-Bosch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.