To say the last month-and-a-half has been a frustrating time for Michigan forward Jon Horford would be an understatement.

The sophomore has not played a game since Dec. 10 due to a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot.

For a while, Horford’s injury didn’t seem to be that serious, and most didn’t expect that he’d still be sitting so long after the injury first came to light. Horford actually played through pain in the win over Oakland at the Palace of Auburn Hills — Michigan coach John Beilein revealed that he sustained a “stress area” in his foot after the game against Iowa State a week before.

At the time, Beilein said he would rest Horford to prevent the relatively minor injury from becoming something more serious. Considering the then-20th-ranked Wolverines were facing a pretty breezy three-game stretch of mid-major opponents before opening the Big Ten season, Beilein’s decision seemed natural.

But then Horford didn’t play against Penn State in the conference opener, and Beilein announced that Horford was “week-to-week.” A medical redshirt became a legitimate option, pending an MRI.

That MRI didn’t reveal further damage, but an X-ray a couple weeks later showed that Horford indeed had a stress fracture in the metatarsal, putting a potential return this season even further in doubt. While he hasn’t traveled to several of Michigan’s road games, Horford did make the trip to Columbus on Sunday in street clothes. He said he’s been frustrated having to sit out.

“But that’s life, and my teammates have been real supportive of me,” Horford said. “It’s been hard, it’s always hard when you can’t play. Everyone’s been helping me stay up, and hopefully in the near future I can be 100 percent.”

In recent weeks, Beilein has given periodic updates on Horford’s status. First, he was doing rehab work on his own. Then, he came back to practice doing only some of the activities. He finally resumed practicing full-go last week, but Beilein said he was rusty and wouldn’t play until he got back to full health. It’s unclear if that will happen soon.

Considering Horford still hasn’t played, and since Michigan (6-3 Big Ten, 16-6 overall) has just nine regular-season games remaining, it appears more and more likely that Horford will sit the rest of the year and take a redshirt.

The move would have several advantages. For one, it would break up the sophomore class, which has four other players. The departure of five players two years from now would hurt roster continuity. It would also help space out the big men on the roster, as one of his classmates is redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan. And Horford would have an extra year of eligibility, meaning this wouldn’t be a wasted season.

But on the flip side, the Wolverines are hurting for depth, especially in the frontcourt. Sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz is much more natural as a “4” man but has been forced to take the backup center role.

And while Morgan has done a better job of avoiding foul trouble this season, he’s still liable to slip up. When he and Smotrycz both pick up too many fouls — as was the case against then-No. 4 Ohio State and its burly front line on Sunday — the team’s frontcourt depth issues become obvious. Junior forward Blake McLimans is the next option, but he doesn’t have the physicality to battle down low like Morgan or Horford.

Beilein has an important decision to make: try to get by without Horford this season, or bring him back and essentially sacrifice his sophomore year for a better chance at a strong finish in the stretch.

“You always want to be out there,” Horford said. “You want to be able to help your team. I feel like the only way I can contribute now is try to pick these guys up when they come out of the game in timeouts.”

HOKE-INFLUENCED?: It wasn’t easy to notice, but in the run-up to the tilt with the Buckeyes, Beilein began to refer to the university simply as “Ohio,” adopting the jargon popularized by Michigan football coach Brady Hoke.

Beilein continued to omit the “State” in his press conference after the game and in the Big Ten Coaches’ teleconference on Monday. But he clams the linguistic decision is all his own.

“I can’t tell you how it’s happened, it’s just sort of happened with (the football saying) ‘Beat Ohio,’ ” Beilein said. “I have received no direction from anybody. I’ve just adopted that myself. But there’s some uniformity with what Brady’s doing.”

IZZO PRAISES BURKE: After the Wolverines’ 60-59 win over then-No. 9 Michigan State on Jan. 17, Spartans head man Tom Izzo was reticent to praise Michigan freshman point guard Trey Burke.

Perhaps you can chalk it up to Izzo being disappointed with the loss, because he was much more open about Burke on Monday.

“I think he has (surprised),” Izzo said. “He wasn’t a top recruit coming out (of high school). He just kind of fits what they do. He’s done a good job and is a very, very, very good offensive player. He can do a lot with the ball, uses balls screens pretty well and shoots it very well.”

Izzo also praised Indiana freshman forward Cody Zeller for his contributions as a first-year player. Michigan welcomes Zeller and the 20th-ranked Hoosiers to the Crisler Center on Wednesday night.

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