It’s not often that junior guard Manny Harris misses a layup.


And for the Michigan men’s basketball team, when he misses four of them — some of them on fast breaks — it’s not a good sign.

In yesterday’s 51-44 loss to Illinois, it simply epitomized the Wolverines’ problems.

From the get-go, Michigan never really got in sync. The Wolverines hit just 1-of-10 to start the game, their sole basket coming off a three by sophomore guard Zack Novak.

In fact, it looked like Novak was the only one who came to play, scoring 12 points — one shy of the team-high 13, scored by Harris

But beyond that, the Wolverines’ shooting was simply dreadful.

Michigan shot 24.6 percent in the contest and just over 19 percent from behind the arc.

“They’re shooting not to miss,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Or they’re thinking they’re going to get fouled and we just aren’t clean with what we’re doing. They’re thinking too much. It’s a shame right now because I really thought we played one of our best defensive games of the year.”

That defense helped the Wolverines (6-9 Big Ten, 13-14 overall) stay in the contest, despite the lackluster field-goal percentage.

Down 41-35 with just over six minutes to play, Michigan looked poised to make a comeback. Just then, Harris stole the ball, drove up court and looked to have an easy layup. But instead of making the routine play, the ball clanked off the iron and into the hands of Illinois center Mike Tisdale.

“Definitely frustrating, it’s something that all my life I’ve been able to do,” Harris said of his missed layups. “When you get out there and get right to the rim and miss it, it’s frustrating.

While Michigan has struggled shooting all season, its two stars, Harris and senior forward DeShawn Sims are usually reliable. But not last night. Harris shot 5-of-17 and Sims’s impact was largely nonexistent, as he got into foul trouble and scored just five points.

Despite Michigan’s poor shooting — particularly in the first half when the team shot just 20 percent — Illinois turnovers kept the Wolverines in the game. The Fighting Illini turned it over 17 times, which prevented any lengthy second-half runs.

And even with two minutes left, Illinois (10-5, 18-10) had just a four-point lead and hadn’t scored a basket in the previous three minutes, putting Michigan in a manageable situation.

With the shot clock ticking down, freshman guard Darius Morris poked the ball away from Illinois’s Demetri McCamey. After DJ Richardson picked up the loose ball for the Fighting Illini, he chucked it up just as the shot clock expired.

Tisdale was there once again to grab the offensive rebound. From there, McCamey dished the alley-oop to Mike Davis and it looked like Michigan’s chances were over.

While Harris and Sims had off nights, the rest of the team besides Novak was worse.

Sophomore Laval Lucas Perry continued his slump, scoring no points and extending his scoreless streak to two games. Fellow sophomore Stu Douglass matched him, shooting 0-for-8 in the contest including five misses from behind the arc.

“Stu’s not alone, he’s not the lone ranger here,” Beilein said. “There’s a lot of guys. Laval, its been a long time since he’s made a shot out there.”

It drew a stark contrast to the two recent road games in Minnesota and Iowa where the Wolverines shot over 50 percent from downtown.

But after two straight losses and with just three games remaining in the season, it is getting hard for the team to put aside all the negatives that have mounted so far.

“It’s all mental for everybody on the team. All mental,” Morris said. “You’ve just got to go out there and believe. I feel like a lot of people are not believing and that’s a part. You’ve got to have faith and yourself and in your team and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

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