Manny Harris returned from his one-game suspension Tuesday vowing to be a better leader.
"Sometimes you take two steps backward, sometimes you take two steps forward," Harris said. "It's just something that you try to continue to get better at. But I am getting better at it."
What that means for Michigan in the short term isn't clear. The Wolverines likely need to win the Big Ten tournament in March to make a repeat trip to the NCAA Tournament, and Harris, a junior and the Big Ten's leading scorer, could declare early for the NBA draft. Still, Michigan coach John Beilein said it's good to have Harris back in the fold. After sitting out last week's loss to Purdue for unsportsmanlike conduct in practice, Harris did not start in Tuesday's loss to Michigan State.
Beilein said that wasn't punishment, and Harris should be back in the starting lineup this Saturday against Iowa.
"What he needs to do right now is just continue to work his game and get better and better," Beilein said. "He's a marked man and he's got to do that. It's tougher than people think. When you go out there it's easy for some guys to come to practice and work hard and they're complementary players. When everybody's focused on you, there's more pressure than people think."
MICHIGAN STATE 57, MICHIGAN 56: Kalin Lucas made the game-winning basket with 3.5 seconds left, splitting Michigan's 1-3-1 defense for a 17-foot jumper, and DeShawn Sims missed a tip on an in-bounds lob as the buzzer sounded for the Wolverines. Michigan led 56-53 with two minutes to play, but fired airballs on back-to-back possessions. Despite the heart-wrenching finish, the Wolverines played one of their better ball-control games of the year, committing just four turnovers and forcing 18 MSU miscues.
DeShawn Sims led Michigan with 19 points, and Manny Harris added 16, five rebounds and five steals off the bench.
The Wolverines have lost three straight.
--G Kelvin Grady might rejoin the team, though Michigan coach John Beilein said Grady likely would be used only in a scout-team capacity. Grady, a junior, played two seasons of basketball, starting 33 games, but left the team to play football after his role diminished last year. With no NCAA tournament bid on the horizon, it's doubtful Beilein would want to take developmental game time away from his point guard of the future, Darius Morris.
--Anthony Wright made his first start of the season in Manny Harris' absence, scoring three points and grabbing a season-high five rebounds against Purdue. Wright scored nine points in a win over UConn earlier this month, but hasn't been a factor otherwise. He has not scored in Michigan's other six Big Ten games.
ON THE SPOT: Rebounding continues to be an Achilles' heel for Michigan. The Wolverines rank last in the Big Ten in rebound margin and were murdered on the boards, 41-25, in Tuesday's loss to Michigan State. Aside from playing big man Zack Gibson more, there isn't much Michigan can do to correct its biggest deficiency. The Wolverines are small and thin, playing one player (DeShawn Sims) more than 10 minutes a game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(We) all would have wanted him there, but the situation was complicated. It definitely didn't affect a win or a loss." -- Forward DeShawn Sims to AnnArbor.com, on Manny Harris's suspension and the Wolverines' loss to Purdue.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Ranked in the top 15 to begin the season, Michigan isn't even in the bubble discussion now. The Wolverines lost all their big games in November and December and blew double-digit leads to Northwestern and Wisconsin in January. Their lone win of significance against UConn was followed by that missed opportunity at Wisconsin and the suspension of guard Manny Harris against Purdue. Leadership has been a problem.
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.
Michigan 68, UConn 63
Wisconsin 54, Michigan 48
Purdue 69, Michigan 59
Michigan State 57, Michigan 56
vs. Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 30
at Northwestern, Tuesday, Feb. 2
vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, Feb 6
at Minnesota, Thursday, Feb. 11
IN FOCUS: The stretch of games ending Feb. 6 vs. Wisconsin gives Michigan a chance to make a move in the standings with three home games in the two-week span, but the Wolverines lost the first of the three, to Michigan State.
--PG Kelvin Grady rejoined the basketball team on Sunday, but did not dress or even sit on the bench for Tuesday's game against Michigan State. Grady, a junior, quit basketball after seeing his role diminish last spring to play football full-time. He's expected to play a scout-team role the rest of the season.
--F Anthony Wright has started the last two games in place of Harris, but hasn't provided much in the way of offense. Wright has one 3-pointer in each game, and just those six points in Michigan's eight Big Ten games this year.
--G Zack Novak grabbed a career-high five offensive rebounds in Tuesday's loss to Michigan State. Novak has been Michigan's second-best rebounder in conference play, behind DeShawn Sims. He has five or more boards in four of Michigan's last five games.