Both Michigan and Marquette responded well to their first true challenges of the young season. The two teams now vie for a spot in the Old Spice Classic championship game Friday in Orlando, Fla.
The No. 15 Wolverines (3-0) had routed Northern Michigan and Houston Baptist by a combined 69 points before arriving in Orlando as the only ranked squad in the eight-team field. Manny Harris, though, had to rescue Michigan from an upset loss Thanksgiving Day by finishing one rebound shy of his second triple-double of the season in an 83-76 overtime victory over Creighton.
“Not disrespecting the other two teams we played, but that was kind of our first challenge,” said Harris, who played all 45 minutes and finished with 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.
The junior guard, who had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in Michigan’s season opener versus Northern Michigan, is averaging 21.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists. Yet coach John Beilein thinks Harris can still play better.
“With his nine assists, I thought there were several times where he would press a little bit where he could’ve had 13 or 14 when the took it to the basket a few times,” Beilein said.
DeShawn Sims also had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolverines, who rallied from a six-point deficit in the final eight minutes of regulation. Laval Lucas-Perry, who had scored 10 points combined in the first two games, hit four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.
Keeping Harris and the 6-foot-8 Sims, who is contributing 20.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, off the boards will be pivotal for Marquette (5-0) to have any chance of reaching the title game. The Golden Eagles battled past Xavier on Thursday for a 71-61 victory - despite getting outrebounded 48-32 - after posting four blowout wins at home over inferior opponents.
Lazar Hayward scored 27 points and Jimmy Butler added 15 for Marquette, which has only one player taller than 6-7 after projected starting center Chris Otule suffered a season-ending foot injury in practice Monday. The Golden Eagles, though, have been using their speed to their advantage and forced 20 turnovers by the Musketeers that led to 25 points.
Marquette has forced at least 17 turnovers in all five of its games and 20 or more in each of the last three.
Hayward is averaging 19.2 points and Butler 16.6 for the Golden Eagles, who are shooting 43.6 percent (41 for 94) from 3-point range. With 1,339 points, Hayward is nine shy of passing Cordell Henry for 20th on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Senior point guard Maurice Acker has emerged as a valuable reserve, averaging 10.0 points and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc. He had 11 points, five steals and four assists in Thursday’s victory.
Michigan leads the all-time series 13-5, but the teams have not met since the Wolverines won 89-81 on Dec. 22, 1990.