After searching all season for that elusive third scorer, Michigan finally found not just a third, but a fourth and fifth in Sunday’s upset win over Connecticut.
One of those sources came as somewhat of a surprise.
Michigan unleashed its secret weapon in redshirt junior Anthony Wright, whose previous season high had been five point efforts against Northern Michigan and Creighton.
Even more surprising, Wright led the Wolverines in perhaps their most vulnerable stage. When several Michigan starters got into foul trouble early, and senior DeShawn Sims and junior Manny Harris combined for just eight points in the first half, Wright carried some of the load.
In fact, Wright tied Harris and sophomore Laval Lucas Perry as the second-leading scorer for the Wolverines in the first half and combined with senior Zack Gibson for 25 minutes in the game. The two provided balanced offense and the size to match a more physical Husky team.
“Our bench has not been a strength all year long,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “For whatever reason, we haven’t. But maybe this is the confidence that those two need.”
Wright made two of his three 3-point shots in the first half, hitting his first spot-up jumper at the 8:08 mark. Six minutes later, Wright’s second triple extended Michigan’s lead to eight with 2:25 to play in the half.
While the Michigan fans may have held their breath each time Wright went up with the ball, he says he has confidence in his shot.
“I’ve been hitting in practice, and in games I’m looking to shoot but I’m trying to find the team shot,” Wright said. “Today, I got a lot of team shot opportunities, that was probably the biggest thing.”
More important, Wright hit his third three at the beginning of the second half, halting a 7-0 Connecticut run that cut the Michigan lead down to just four. Wright’s three with 16 minutes to play reignited the Wolverines.
But it wasn’t just Wright who contributed. Michigan had by far its most balanced effort on the stat sheet all season. And while it was no surprise that Harris led the Wolverines with 18 points, it was a bit of a shock that Sims, Michigan’s second-leading scorer, tallied just eight points against the Huskies.
Both Wright and sophomore Zack Novak finished ahead of Sims in points scored.
While Wright may have been the biggest surprise in Sunday’s upset win, he wasn’t alone. All season, Michigan has struggled to find offense from any source outside of Harris and Sims. And while sophomore Stu Douglass and Novak are known for their three-point shooting, they are shooting just 32 and 27 percent from behind the arc, respectively.
Though the two didn’t fare much better than their season averages, it was the quality of shot that mattered. In the final minutes of the game Novak hit perhaps the most important shot of his career, breaking a 58-58 tie with a 3-pointer that put Michigan up for good.
And though Gibson scored just four points in the contest, he recorded a mammoth block in the first half and made countless hustle plays on defense with two steals.
Even though Michigan can’t expect an effort across the board throughout the rest of the season like it saw Sunday against the Huskies, the Wolverines can’t continually put all of the pressure on Harris and Sims as they head into the meat of their conference schedule.
“Michigan needs that,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. “Harris and Sims can’t be the only stars in town.”