Something was missing from Michigan’s lineup on Tuesday night.
Ten pounds to be exact.
Freshman Jerret Smith returned for his first home game since the Wolverines defeated Wisconsin on Jan. 28 after dropping 10 pounds from his battle with mono.
“I feel a lot better now that my weight’s back down,” Smith said. “It (helps) my confidence a lot more. This is my typical weight.”
The freshman sat out four straight games due to a concussion and then for mono. Then, last Saturday, Smith suited up for the Wolverines’ contest against Michigan State. But he was still regaining his game conditioning. Smith played 18 minutes and recorded two points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field.
But Tuesday night against Illinois, Smith looked like the floor leader off the bench that Michigan sorely missed.
“Jerret Smith gave us a tremendous game,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “I complimented him in the locker room in front of the whole team. I thought his minutes off the bench were sensational. He really played with poise beyond his years.”
Smith contributed nine points in 15 minutes of play, but his court vision had the greatest impact in the Wolverines’ victory.
With Michigan clinging to a three-point lead midway through the second half, Smith pushed the ball to halfcourt. From there, he zipped a pass to a wide-open Brent Petway under the basket, who finished the play with an emphatic dunk.
“He gave us big minutes, especially just handling the ball, passing to guys and penetrating,” Petway said. “He gave us big minutes off the bench.”
Smith struck again after Illinois’ James Augustine hit a free throw, cutting the Michigan lead to one with four minutes left in the game. As the shot clock dipped below 10 seconds, the freshman took the ball at the top of the key and drove to the lane. At the block, he changed his shot into a pass right to the hands of junior Courtney Sims.
Sims, who was positioned for the rebound, took the ball, slammed it home and drew a foul on Brian Randle. He made the ensuing free throw to give Michigan a four-point lead.
“I was trying to get rebounding position just in case he shot it,” Sims said. “I just looked before I turned because Jerret’s a real good passer. Sometimes, he makes tricky passes, and you won’t even expect it.”
During Smith’s absence from the court, his weight dropped from the 200-pounds he started the season with to his new weight of 190 pounds.
“I want to get back down to 185 because I feel a lot better,” Smith said. “My legs feel there, my explosiveness feels there. I feel so much better. I’m happy I’m losing all that weight.”
Notes: Before the game Tuesday night, the team announced that reserve center Amadou Ba would be suspended for one and a half games following a confrontation with a Michigan State fan in East Lansing on Saturday.
“It’s unfortunate that the incident before the game happened,” Ba said. “I’m really sorry about it, but we just have to move on right now.”