Senior David Merritt didn’t think Sunday would be his day.
The Michigan men’s basketball team wore its maize jerseys against Ohio State, and Merritt thought he hadn’t played well in that color this season.
But he couldn’t have been more wrong.
Merritt had a career-high seven points, equaling his total output from the Wolverines’ previous seven games dressed in maize. And his career-high four assists were four more than he had in the other maize games.
Merritt entered the game midway through the first half and began his Buckeye assault minutes later by burying a 3-pointer from the top of the key with five seconds left on the shot clock.
A couple of minutes later, Merritt hit freshman Manny Harris on the fastbreak for an easy bucket.
On the Wolverines’ next possession, Merritt drove and hit a layup as he fell to the floor. He did it again on Michigan’s next possession.
“He just sparks – pull-up three, taking it to the basket, dishing dimes,” Michigan redshirt freshman Anthony Wright said. “He was out there ballin’. “
After a few minutes on the bench, Merritt reentered the game for the closing minutes of the first half. In the final two minutes, he pushed the ball upcourt to Harris open for a 3-pointer and made a no-look pass to set up an easy deuce for sophomore DeShawn Sims.
By halftime, Merritt had collected his career-best seven points and already had three assists.
“I just said to him, like, ‘Look Dave, you’ve got to bring intensity, the same you brought in the first half because you’re carrying us right now,’ ” said junior Jevohn Shepherd, who told Merritt before the game to ignore his maize-phobia.
But about five minutes after he set a career high in assists on a perfect dropoff pass for a dunk by Sims, Merritt hurt his knee. He hopped around midcourt on one leg, and sophomore Ekpe Udoh carried him to the bench, where a trainer quickly assessed him before leading him off the court.
Beilein said Merritt will get an MRI.
Curbing Koufos: Ohio State freshman forward/center Kosta Koufos shredded Michigan early.
The 7-footer scored inside easily in the first half while being guarded mostly by Michigan’s wing players. He led the Buckeyes with 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the frame.
In the second half, the Wolverines double-teamed Koufos and rotated quicker to help on him. But most importantly, they treated him more like a center than a forward. Udoh, who blocked Koufos’s lone miss of the first half, covered him in the second.
“We stuck Ekpe on him, and it was over,” Wright said.
Koufos went 3-of-12 in the second half against Udoh, who had six blocks and four steals.
Notes: The Big Ten named Harris its player of the week after leading Michigan to wins against Ohio State and Iowa. The Detroit native’s 21 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals per game and 57-percent 3-point shooting for the week earned him his first weekly accolade. . Freshman point guard Kelvin Grady’s streak of minutes without a turnover ended at 83 when Ohio State guard Jamar Butler picked Grady’s pocket in the first half. . Michigan went 20-for-24 from the free throw line, while the Buckeyes were just 2-of-3 from the charity stripe. The Wolverines went 11-of-14 from the line when Ohio State fouled down the stretch. . The game was Michigan’s first sellout of the season.