On a night when there were more questions than answers surrounding the Wolverines basketball team and their uphill battle to make the NCAA tournament at seasons end, Deshawn "Petey" Sims and Manny "Fresh" Harris put the team on their back, and led them to one of the most impressive victories of the season.
The nationally televised game against No. 16 Purdue was not only a must win for the Wolverines, but payback for an earlier loss in which Manny Harris was ejected on a controversial call early in the contest.
Michigan now sits at 18-11 and 8-8 in a strong Big Ten conference and has upcoming games against Wisconsin and Minnesota to close out the schedule.
The game was back and forth in the first half, but Michigan pulled away with tremendous passing and defense, along with lights-out shooting at almost 80% in the second half.
Manny Harris finished with 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. DeShawn Sims chipped in with a career-high 29 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. No other Michigan player was in double figures, but the team finished 8-16 from 3-point range for a terrific 50%.
As I pointed out in my previous article covering the Michigan team, Manny Harris was benched for the overtime period in a loss to Iowa over the weekend, and Coach Beilein held a team meeting to address the issue prior to tonight's game. Apparently Harris received whatever message Coach Beilein was trying to get across as he played with confidence and leadership all night long.
At one point in the second half DeShawn Sims signaled to the bench, pointing to his back, telling the coaching staff to put it all on his back, and he'd bring home a victory. He did just that.
The game ended in a 9-point margin, but Michigan was much more dominating than the score reflects. Michigan executed their offense perfectly against the No. 1 defense in the Big Ten conference and scored almost at will on back cuts and post entries.
The victory was solid but now it's back to work in preparation for Sunday's big game against Wisconsin.
Rest assured that the Michigan team has shown that they can show up and deliver when needed and are a scary opponent for the teams that must face them.
If Manny and DeShawn continue to play strong, this team is going to be tough to beat.