Since inserting sophomore Jerret Smith into the starting lineup earlier this month, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker has stressed to his point guard the importance of making the simple play instead of always looking for the home run.

But minutes into the second half of last night’s 67-56 win over Michigan State, Smith saw a fat pitch over the heart of the plate. And he crushed it.

With the Wolverines running in transition, Smith threw up a lob from behind halfcourt. What at first seemed a certain turnover turned into SportsCenter’s top play of the night, as senior Brent Petway skied for the ball and slammed it home for a 39-31 lead. True to his nickname, “Air Georgia” ignited the fans at Crisler Arena, and sparked the Wolverines on to the much-needed win.

Petway’s electrifying play stole the show, but it was senior Dion Harris’s game-high 24 points that kept Michigan’s (8-7 Big Ten, 20-10 Overall) NCAA Tournament chances alive.

Known more for his 3-point shooting, Harris unveiled his ability to drive and finish, scoring numerous times around the rim while absorbing contact.

Five of the senior’s seven baskets came inside the arc. But, in the closing seconds of the first half, the senior reminded the crowd about his stroke with a 3-pointer from beyond NBA range that gave the Wolverines a 33-28 lead heading into the break.

The shot was reminiscent of the triple Michigan State star Drew Neitzel knocked down right before the buzzer when the teams met two weeks ago. The shot gave Neitzel 14 points in the first half, and put the Spartans up one at halftime en route to a 59-44 defeat of Michigan.

But Neitzel didn’t have anything left in his bag of tricks last night. Battling the flu, the Spartan playmaker was held to just 11 points in 26 minutes of action (he averages more than 35 minutes per game).

Neitzel did knock down a trey to make the score 59-56 with just over five minutes remaining. But the rest of his shots fell noticeably short, and Michigan State (8-7, 21-9) didn’t score another point the rest of the night. After the game, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo refused to use his star’s illness as an excuse, instead stating that the better team won the game.

With Neitzel limited, the burden of the scoring fell to Spartan freshman Raymar Morgan, who killed the Wolverines the first time these teams met. He led Michigan State with 13 points last night, but shot just 6-of-16 thanks to the defensive combination of Michigan captain Lester Abram and forward Jevohn Shepherd.

Courtney Sims delivered a strong performance with 13 points and 10 rebounds, perhaps a sign he has gotten comfortable coming off the bench. But an undisclosed knee injury to Ekpe Udoh, who was taken out less than a minute into the second half and limited to a total of 14 minutes, could mean Sims will be starting Saturday when Michigan hosts No. 1 Ohio State, a game that will now carry important NCAA Tournament implications.

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