It didn’t mask the recurring problems of the past two weeks. It didn’t even mask the problems from the first half of the game. But at least the Michigan men’s basketball team’s 67-53 win over Arkansas–Pine Bluff on Saturday proved how quickly the Wolverines can take back momentum, something that the team has been missing since Thanksgiving.
Junior forward Manny Harris exploded for 14 points during a six-minute stretch early in the second half to blow the game open. The Detroit native scored any way he wanted – three-point shooting, fastbreaks and slashing from the top of the key. What was a 32-32 tie quickly morphed into a 49-37 lead, and for the first time in five games, the Wolverines were playing up to expectation.
Though Harris said Arkansas Pine Bluff’s players did not appear deflated after the Wolverines’ 14-5 run during that stretch, the Golden Lions’ torrid shooting from the first half could not carry over for a potential comeback bid. Arkansas Pine Bluff shot a meager 6-for-22 in the second half (27.3-percent) and turned the ball over 10 times. Considering the Wolverines made no major adjustments at halftime, it appeared that Golden Lions simply came back to earth, resembling the squad that was shooting just 41.5-percent from the field entering Saturday.
Despite the double digit win, the Wolverines still showed many of the same flaws that have plagued them during their three-game losing streak. Michigan shot just 3-15 from behind the arc in the first half. Outside the paint, the Wolverines missed 17-of-21 shots during that stretch. Michigan coach John Beilein admitted that several of his outside shooters have lost confidence in their stroke recently, and suggested reversing those mindsets will be a huge coaching challenge going forward.
The first half issues were punctuated by Michigan’s six-and-a-half minute scoring drought, during which they missed 10 consecutive shots. The Wolverines’ dismal outside shooting magnified whatever defensive breakdowns they made to allow the Golden Lions to stay in the game.
Senior forward DeShawn Sims was the only reliable option on offense during the first frame, scoring 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor. Sims dominated the paint for much of the half, using an array of pivot moves to fake defenders and leave them out of position. Outside of Sims, the rest of the team shot just 5-of-22 from the field in the opening 20 minutes.