After serving a one-game suspension in Saturday’s game at Purdue, Michigan coach John Beilein reinstated junior guard Manny Harris, and he is cleared to play in tonight’s game against No. 5 Michigan State.
That’s good news for the Wolverines, who will finish off a tough four-game stretch against four straight ranked opponents, culminating in tonight’s matchup with the Spartans at Crisler Arena.
While Harris was unavailable for comment on Monday, he did prepare a statement for the media.
“I fully accept the suspension from the coaching staff,” Harris said in an Athletic Department press release. “It was the correct decision. I cannot tell you my disappointment for letting my teammates down and showing the lack of leadership that I normally try to provide.”
Though the Michigan coaches and players haven’t shed much light on the situation, senior forward DeShawn Sims said the suspension was the result of something that could have happened to anyone on the team.
“It’s an incident that happens with everybody,” Sims said. “A situation that can happen sometimes, can escalate to more than what it is. It just happened to be a suspension this time. I’ve had incidences in practice where I was able to resolve them, slip by with something. Until it happens publicly, you never know. A lot of things happen privately in a lot of programs across the country, it just led to a suspension in this one.”
Beilein said the incident took place late in Friday’s practice, and that altering the team’s gameplan for Purdue, with the team traveling that day, proved to be difficult. He also noted that while leaders are starting to step up for the Wolverines, incidents like this leave him concerned.
“The only thing that’s ever disappointing is inconsistency (in leadership),” Beilein said. “And that’s the major thing you want in leadership is consistency. We’re getting more consistent with it. We’re finding more people there helping, and obviously the coaches have to do a great job with it, too.”
Last year, when Beilein benched his star against Iowa, Harris returned the next game against No. 16 Purdue and helped lead the Wolverines to a dominant 87-78 win over the Boilermakers at Crisler Arena.
“Manny will come and play probably one of his best games,” Sims said. “He’s going to come out and be exceptional tonight.”
Michigan (3-4 Big Ten, 10-9 overall) hopes Harris will provide a spark, considering that the Spartans have been solid all season. Michigan State (7-0, 17-3) is the only remaining unbeaten team in conference play. The Spartans have lost to just North Carolina and Texas on the road and Florida at a neutral site — all top-tier talent.
And after playing contrasting styles of basketball on the road against Wisconsin and Purdue, once again, Michigan has to adjust and prepare for a team that likes to score fast-break points.
“We went from Wisconsin where you can pass it 25 times and they won’t let you get a good shot to Purdue who will not let you get one pass,” Beilein said. “Now we go back to where it’s a mix between the two. They get baskets two ways, one is their transition game and the other is their great offensive rebounding.”
That could be a concern for an undersized Michigan lineup that has struggled in corralling rebounds all season. The Wolverines allowed their game against Purdue to get out of hand after the Boilermakers picked up seven second-chance opportunities in the first half.
The Spartans are led by junior guard Kalin Lucas, who uses his speed and athleticism to lead the Spartans in scoring, averaging 15.8 points per game.
With the Wolverines hovering around the .500 mark for the season, a trip back to the NCAA Tournament seems like a longshot at best. The team realizes that each game down the stretch is important and that some upset wins are a must if Michigan wants a chance at postseason play.
“We know that we have to come out every time and give our best effort or there won’t be too much shot for a postseason,” Sims said. “Chances are getting very slim. We just have to come out mentally and physically focused each time we play.”