LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — In the opening game of this weekend’s Old Spice Classic, the Michigan men’s basketball team edged a good Creighton squad in overtime for its first win of the tournament.
The closeness of the game was a little surprising, given Michigan’s No. 15 ranking and Creighton’s relative anonymity, but it seemed to be merely a hiccup for the team expected to win the tournament.
Looking back, that game was an ominous sign for the games yet to come.
Marquette soundly beat the Wolverines in their next game. And yesterday when Michigan battled for third place in the tournament against unranked Alabama, the Wolverines lost their second straight game, 68-66.
“It let us know that we still got a long way to go,” senior DeShawn Sims said. “And we probably aren’t the 15th team in the country.”
While not placing in a tournament it was expected to win was tough for Michigan, what was even tougher was the way it lost. With Sunday’s game tied and five seconds left, Alabama junior Senario Hillman missed a layup, but sophomore JaMychal Green came flying in with a furious put-back slam.
Freshman Darius Morris took the ball cross-court into the lane and put up a floater, only to have it thrown into the stands by Green to seal the Alabama win.
“That was the best play for the team,” junior Manny Harris said. “No one helped on me, no one helped on nobody. It was a good play. It just didn’t go our way.”
Harris, of all people, could have used that help not only in Sunday’s game but in the whole tournament.
Harris averaged nearly 23 points per game in the Classic, which earned him a spot on the All-Tournament team. Michigan’s next-leading scorer, Sims, averaged 13, and the rest of the team was largely nonexistent on offense.
“I’m not looking at that,” Harris said. “We came out with two losses, so none of that really matters.”
Harris was consistently the one powering the Wolverines’ offense against Alabama, particularly in the early minutes, when Michigan took a 12-point lead with about six minutes remaining in the first half.
But the Crimson Tide roared back just before the break and closed the gap to four. And from there, it was a fight down to the last second.
And that last second, many — including Michigan coach John Beilein — thought that the ball belonged in the hands of Harris, the team’s leading scorer and slasher.
“I threw Darius in there to try to get to the rim,” Beilein said. “In hindsight, we have another player who should’ve had it, and if Manny gets to the rim, something else may happen.”
Michigan will now return to Ann Arbor with a 4-2 record and a significantly humbled team. But the Wolverines won’t have much time to think about this weekend’s setbacks.
Boston College comes to Crisler Arena on Wednesday, and Beilein said he doesn’t yet know exactly what needs correcting with his team.
“I don’t have a plan other than watch the tape, summarize what’s happened over three days, and then try to put it into a 24-hour shell so we can do what we can before the BC game,” Beilein said. “I don’t have answers right now, other than trying to make us better than what we have.”