At the halfway point of the Big Ten season, the Michigan basketball team is close to sliding into oblivion.
The Wolverines (3-5 Big Ten, 12-10 overall) lost their fifth straight game last night, falling to Minnesota 71-54. Two of Michigan’s biggest offensive threats — guard Dion Harris and forward Courtney Sims — came off the bench after struggling of late and were held scoreless by the Gophers (5-3, 15-6). Guard Dani Wohl and forward Brent Petway were inserted into the starting lineup in their places –— each of the five starters failed to score in double figures.
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker indicated that he took Harris and Sims out of the starting lineup in hopes of finding a solution to the current losing skid.
“We felt some kids didn’t play up to their capabilities in the previous game, and we were disappointed in that, and so you make some changes,” Amaker said. “We’re trying different things to see if we can ignite our team. Certainly that wasn’t the answer tonight, but we’re still going to search and see if we can find things that will give us a spark.”
Harris has struggled to find his shot recently, and last night might have been his lowest point of the season. The sophomore went 0-for-7 from the floor and fouled out after playing 27 minutes.
“He’s one of our key players and certainly our biggest key on the perimeter,” Amaker said about Harris. “He’s not close to being himself right now in terms of his play.”
With guards Lester Abram and Daniel Horton out of action, Harris has assumed most of the load on offense.
“(Last night) I went out there and tried to put all of the scoring load on myself,” Harris said. “It’s hard knowing that guys are out and how much the team needs you.”
Junior forward Chris Hunter carried the Wolverines with his 17 points, but Michigan’s frontcourt was unable to slow down its Minnesota counterparts. Minnesota center Jeff Hagen was constantly slipping through the Michigan defense, hitting all five of his field goals en route to 15 points and nine boards.
“Jeff was physical and was able to stay out of foul trouble despite a lot of action down low,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “His offense was efficient, and he had a good feel on defense.”
Both teams struggled at times to find the scoring touch, especially in the second half. At the 11-minute mark of the second half, both teams failed to score for over two minutes. That could have been the window for Michigan to erase the 11-point halftime lead, but the Wolverines only cut the lead to nine.
The Wolverines turned the ball over 24 times, the fourth 20-plus turnover game of the season. Over the last two games, Amaker has stated that he believes his team is showing good effort but hasn’t been able to execute its gameplan. With the next three games featuring a road trip to Colombus and a homestead against No. 1 Illinoia and No. 12 Michigan State, the Wolverines will need to find out what is wrong in a hurry.
“Guys just aren’t sharp right now,” Hunter said. “We have to find some kind of way to sharpen it up mentally and be more focused for long periods of time and make smart decisions.”
Big Ten Blunders
Minnesota’s 71-54 victory over the Wolverines extended Michigan’s losing streak to five games. The Daily compares several key stats before and during Michigan’s recent skid.
Record 12-5 0-5
Points per game 66.6 55.2
Margin of Victory +5.3 -15.8
3-point FG % .319 .285
Field Goal % .456 .403
TO’s per game 14.8 17.8
Assists per game 13.4 11.4
Dion Harris ppg: 13.8 9.4