Something about playing on the road brings out the worst in Michigan. The Wolverines have been one of the most dysfunctional road teams in the Big Ten in recent years, and three weeks into the conference season this year is no exception. Michigan is 2-6 in road and neutral-site games this year. The Wolverines won at last place Penn State earlier this month and beat Creighton at the Old Spice Classic in November. But Michigan doesn't have a win of significance away from Crisler Arena. That's not the type of profile that looks appealing to the NCAA selection committee come March. Michigan does have three more chances to score a big upset on the road.
The next comes Saturday at Purdue in the only meeting between the two teams this season. Michigan beat the Boilermakers in Ann Arbor last year, but the Wolverines haven't won in West Lafayette since 2003. If the Wolverines don't win Saturday, they'll have to wait until end-of-the-season trips to Ohio State and Michigan State to impress the committee. By that time, it'll be too late.
WISCONSIN 54, MICHIGAN 48: Michigan lost its ninth straight game at the Kohl Center, blowing a 10-point second-half lead and squandering its best defensive effort of the year. The Wolverines led for the game's first 36 minutes and held the Badgers to 18 points in the first half, but Hughes scored 16 of his 20 team-high points after the break. DeShawn Sims had 23 points and 13 rebounds for Michigan, but just three other Wolverines made field goals.
Manny Harris finished with 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
--DeShawn Sims has two straight double-digit rebounding games, and six games with at least 10 boards this season. Sims has been more aggressive on the glass this year than any other time in his career. He had six double-digit rebounding games in his first three seasons as a Wolverine.
--Manny Harris moved into the top 20 on Michigan's all-time scoring list with 11 points against Wisconsin. He has 1,451 career points, tied for 19th place with Loy Vaught. He should move into the top 10 by the end of the year.
--After breaking out of a four-game shooting slump with 10 points against UConn, Zack Novak was back to his cold-shooting ways against Wisconsin. Novak, who missed 17 straight 3-pointers earlier this season, was 0-for-6 from the floor against the Badgers and has made three of his last 15 3-pointers overall.
ON THE SPOT: Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims always do the bulk of the scoring for Michigan, but the Wolverines need more out of their paper-thin bench. Anthony Wright and Zack Gibson came up big in Michigan's upset of UConn, scoring 13 combined points. But the Wolverines got one point in 31 minutes from their reserves in a loss to Wisconsin. In time, Beilein may have to consider returning point guard Darius Morris to the starting lineup and bringing Laval Lucas-Perry off the pine for a dose of offense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Michigan needs that. Harris and Sims can't be the only stars in town." -- UConn coach Jim Calhoun after Michigan got solid offensive efforts from supporting cast members Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Anthony Wright in a Jan. 17 win.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Michigan began the year ranked in the top 15 but struggled through most of the season's first two months to find a dependable third scoring option and defend more athletic teams. The Wolverines have played better since the new year, however, winning four of their last five games to renew hope. Manny Harris continues to lead the team in scoring and rebounding and is a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Manny Harris, G Laval Lucas-Perry, G Zack Novak, G Stu Douglas, F DeShawn Sims. Key Subs -- C Zack Gibson, G Darius Morris, F Anthony Wright.
Northwestern 68, Michigan 62
Michigan 69, Indiana 45
Michigan 68, UConn 63
Wisconsin 54, Michigan 48
at Purdue, Saturday, Jan. 23
vs. Michigan State, Tuesday, Jan. 26
vs. Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 30
at Northwestern, Tuesday, Feb. 2
--Michigan coach John Beilein toyed with the idea of taking the redshirt off freshman big man Jordan Morgan when Ben Cronin was lost for the season to a hip injury. But Morgan hasn't played since undergoing offseason knee surgery and, barring a rash of injuries, won't get on the court this year.
--While Cronin's injury is far and away the most serious, two other Wolverines -- Darius Morris and Manny Harris -- have battled nagging injuries all year. Harris is close to 100 percent after tweaking his leg in the preseason, while Morris has dealt with tendinitis in his right elbow since high school. He's taken to wearing a sleeve on his arm recently.
--Since scoring nine points off the bench against Kansas, freshman point guard Darius Morris hasn't been much of a factor offensively. Morris has 10 total points in Michigan's last four games, though he did have seven assists in a loss to Northwestern.