COLUMBUS — It was a battle between two of the most prolific scorers in the Big Ten.
For Ohio State, Evan Turner.
And for Michigan, junior Manny Harris.
But while both have similar statistics, with Turner averaging 19.7 points per game and Harris averaging 18.4, the similarities end there.
Turner is leading a strong Buckeye squad into the NCAA Tournament, while Harris and the Michigan men’s basketball team will likely be watching on TV.
While both are crucial elements to their team’s success, it was key from the onset that the Wolverines would need its junior guard, along with senior forward DeShawn Sims, to have monstrous games if they wanted to upset No. 9 Ohio State
Sims was an important contributor to Michigan’s one-point halftime lead over Ohio State, scoring eight points, while Harris was largely absent throughout the contest, contributing just two points in the first half and shooting 1-for-8 in the game.
Harris was limited by the defense of Ohio State guard William Buford, who closely guarded the Detroit native, particularly in the up-tempo second half.
“They really did a great job on Manny today,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He only had two shots in the first half. But I don’t think it was as considerable difference maybe stepped up intensity a little bit. We had some breakdowns just in timing that we didn’t seem to have in the first half.”
After the Buckeyes went on an 8-0 run to take a 10-point lead, the Wolverines looked to Harris to give them the spark that he often provides.
But whenever Harris went to his patented dribble-drive to the right, Buford or Turner were always there to match the junior and whenever Harris attempted a jump shot it was always contested.
“Each time that he ended up getting the ball,” Beilein said, “they pressured him, helping with some ball screens quite a bit. They had long defenders on him. Every time he got the ball there would be one on him and two gapping him, and that’s when he’s got to keep the ball moving and look for the next opportunity, sometimes he just waited a little too long.”
Early in the second half, with the Wolverines down just two, Harris looked to end Ohio State’s run out of the locker room by taking a deep three. But Turner was there to block the shot and the Buckeyes converted the miss into two points on the fast break.
“I probably shot all threes,” Harris said. “I got the ball late shot clock, nothing to do but force up threes, could have attacked more but that’s how the game went.”
Things wouldn’t get much better, as Harris missed all five of his shot attempts in the second half.
That was the second problem. Harris hadn’t attempted fewer than 14 shots in any of Michigan’s previous four games, and while the rest of the team can make up for the slack, recently only Harris and Sims have done anything in the second half. In last Tuesday’s contest against Illinois, Harris scored 15 of Michigan’s 26 points in the second half.
And when he and Sims couldn’t match Ohio State’s run, Michigan was in trouble. While Harris ended up with 10 points against the Buckeyes, eight of those came from the free throw line late in the game with Ohio State well ahead, and by then the damage done by Buford and Turner was already done.
When the team cooled down in the second half — shooting just 26 percent — it was easy for the Buckeyes to key on just two players, Sims and Harris. Without the auxiliary scoring, the Wolverines didn’t have a chance against a balanced Ohio State team that had three scorers in double figures.
“I think we’re a better team when our shooters are making shots,” Novak said. “And that just opens things up for (Harris and Sims).”