Daily Sports Writer
The Michigan marketing department could not have known Tommy Amaker’s game plan prior to Michigan’s 70-54 thrashing of Ohio State. But the decision to distribute placecards prior to the game with a large “3” on the front was prophetic.
The Wolverines were scorching from beyond the arc, as they lit up the Buckeyes for 10 3-pointers, which accounted for 30 of their 70 points. Each shot brought the capacity crowd to its feet as the fans waved their placecards throughout the game.
It’s just the fourth time this season the Wolverines have cracked into double digits in the 3-point category. Michigan dropped 11 3-pointers on UCLA and Minnesota at home and 10 at Northwestern. Michigan shot 50 percent from long range, matching a season high it set at UCLA (11-for-22) and Northwestern (10-for-20).
Freshman Lester Abram set the tone for the Wolverines when he connected from downtown twice in the first four minutes. The guard was perfect on all three of his 3-pointers, en route to 6-for-8 shooting from the field for the game.
Daniel Horton and LaVell Blanchard also got in on the act. Blanchard was 3-for-8 and Horton dropped in four of his seven 3-point attempts.
“I thought we did a very good job of adjusting to changes in defense,” Amaker said. “I think it is a great quality of our team that we are unselfish and when the open man gets the ball, he gets the shot. That is the way we play, that is what we preach and it is nice when you get rewarded for that.”
For a guard-heavy team that is dependent on the 3-point shot, the success from behind the arc was refreshing for the Wolverines. Last Wednesday against Indiana, Michigan was just 5-for-13 from behind the arc and struggled to find its rhythm on offense.
“We got open looks because we moved the ball and were patient against their zone,” said Horton, who is shooting 39 percent from behind the arc. “I think Wednesday night against Indiana, we weren’t that patient on offense. (Today we were) patient on offense and executed on offense, and were able to get the shots that we wanted.”
Horton’s four 3-pointers brought his season total to 64. He is currently in 10th place for 3-pointers made in a season at Michigan, six behind Louis Bullock’s mark of 70, which he set in 1995-96. Bullock’s mark is also a record for 3-pointers made by a freshman.
On the season, the Wolverines are shooting 35 percent from behind the arc and have connected on 146 3-pointers. They are 11 behind the program’s 10th-place record of 157 set in 1995-96.
Sherrod power: From James Voskuil to Peter Vignier, the Wolverines have had a lot of unsung heroes over the years. But perhaps none have contributed more to a winning team than freshman Sherrod Harrell. Harrell walked on to the team after playing years of high school football, and was meant to be a defensive specialist.
He has been called on for spot duty throughout the year, averaging 6.7 minutes per game. Harrell often comes in to relieve Bernard Robinson, the team’s best perimeter defender. Harrell has seen action in every game this year.
On Saturday, with Robinson in early foul trouble, Harrell was called on to pick up the slack. The freshman played a season-high 17 minutes and grabbed three boards. Most importantly, he helped limit the Big Ten’s second leading scorer, Brent Darby, who is averaging 18.4 points per game, to just 12 points.
“That is what the coaches asked me to go in and do,” Harrell said. “Right off the bench they asked me to bring in aggressive defense.”
Darby being held in check greatly frustrated the Ohio State offense and prevented it from getting in sync and penetrating Michigan’s defense.
“We certainly had an awareness for Darby,” Amaker said. “He is such an outstanding player and makes a lot of things go for his team. And one player is not going to do it (on defense), so a team effort is required to contain or offset a really good player.”
The hunted: Chris Hunter, who played just 10 minutes against Indiana on Wednesday (his lowest output during the Big Ten season), is getting healthy again. The center suffered a stinger in his shoulder in that game and spent much of this week trying to increase his mobility.
Hunter, who says his shoulder is back to 85 percent, was strong enough to put in a full day of work on Saturday, when he played 17 minutes.
“It was feeling pretty good,” Hunter said after the game. “At the start, it was a little tight but as the game went on, it loosened up for me. It should be back by the next game we play.
“We have a day off tomorrow, so I can get some treatment in and hopefully it will get better.”
Hunter said that he uses heat therapy and rest to nurse the shoulder, and that he is doing rehabilitation exercises to increase his range of motion.