When junior forward Manny Harris clanked a 3-pointer off the rim with 36 seconds left in Sunday’s 68-66 loss to Alabama, it was the perfect summation of the Michigan basketball team’s performance at the Old Spice Classic.
Questionable shot selection.
An inability to knock down threes.
And utter disappointment.
While Michigan fans who watched the tournament may feel disheartened after the team lost to two unranked opponents, more alarming than those losses are the Wolverines’ struggles from behind the arc.
In Michigan’s losses to Marquette and Alabama, the team sunk just nine of 45 3-pointers for a 20 percent success rate.
“They did a great job of contesting shots,” senior forward DeShawn Sims said after the Marquette game. “We got a bunch of good looks, but we just couldn’t knock down any shots today.”
Michigan relied on the 3-pointer for a little under 40 percent of its offense last season, so going cold from behind the arc could be detrimental to its future success, particularly when it plays NCAA Tournament-caliber teams like Marquette.
Michigan coach John Beilein admitted that his team relies on the three to win close games like those at the Classic.
“We have to (make them). We have to,” Beilein said. “They played really good defense, I don’t know how many times we had really clean, good looks, but it didn’t seem like we made them when we had to.”
Harris struggled from behind the arc in both of Michigan’s losses, making just one of his 10 attempts. But while Harris contributed in other facets of the game, many of his teammates who specialize in 3-point shooting couldn’t get the job done.
Beilein said that he thought Harris was hesitating on his shot, and while the junior is a great shooter, he needs to clean up that part of his game.
“Stu (Douglass) and Manny are obviously great shooters,” Beilein said. “But Stu made one three the other night and that’s about it. The mistake with those two would be to stop shooting. They need to keep putting it up there when they’re open.”
Fallout: After the hype of starting the season in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in 12 years, the formerly 15th-ranked Wolverines dropped out of both the AP and coaches polls after their pair of losses this weekend.
The drop in rankings coincides with the need to readjust expectations for the team’s success as it heads into this Wednesday’s matchup against Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“You play three games in three days, its not like you can change your philosophy, even for BC on Wednesday…We just have to slowly work at our game to see what we have to clean up if we think things need changing.”
And while the team might not have enough time to change its game plan this week, it knows it still has much to work on.
“It’s still early,” Sims said. “It did let us know we still gotta long way to go.”
A small spark: One of the bright spots over the weekend was the play of senior forward Zack Gibson.
Gibson entered the game against Marquette with 11 minutes remaining and the Wolverines down 60-49. He led the team on a 7-2 run that closed the gap to six points. During the rally, Gibson scored five points off two layups and a free throw and finished with eight against the Golden Eagles. Additionally, Gibson shot 3-for-3 for six points in Sunday’s game against Alabama.
“We’re trying to (find him minutes),” Beilein said about Gibson. “But it’ll depend a lot on the game we’re playing and how he performs in practice.”