Since Michigan's offense has been less then stellar this season, the only go-to options the Wolverines have had are Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims.
For weeks, people around Ann Arbor have said the Wolverines (8-6, 2-1 Big Ten) have needed that third option. Sophomore Laval Lucas-Perry could be just that but has shown weak signs of being that player.
Well, Lucas-Perry finally showed that he can be that third option in Michigan's 64-55 comeback victory over Penn State Thursday night.
Lucas-Perry made four three-point field goals in the final 7:26 to help U-M come back from a 31-16 deficit at halftime in Happy Valley. His first three cut the Nittany Lions' lead to four and his final shot from behind the arc sealed Michigan's victory.
The Flint native finished with 16 points, his second highest for the season, and was 4-for-8 from behind the arc. All his threes were in the second half after going scoreless against Ohio State Sunday.
“I know I’m a better player than I’ve been playing,” Lucas-Perry said to the Detroit Free Press. “I’m just on a learning curve, just helping me get through this and I’m trying to learn.”
He came to Michigan in 2007 after seeing little play at Arizona and has been in Ann Arbor since head coach John Beilein took the job that same year. Lucas-Perry has learned the offense may be starting to break out as the Big Ten season starts.
Michigan's offense has struggled so far this season (ninth in the Big Ten, shooting only 43.5 percent) and the Wolverines have only seen production from Harris and Sims. Harris leads the Big Ten, averaging 19.4 points per game, but has struggled as of late, only scoring 13 against Penn State. He also only had 16 against No. 1 Kansas on Dec. 19, five against Coppin State on Dec. 26 and just 13 in Michigan's 71-65 loss to Indiana Dec. 31.
Sims is averaging 17.3 points per game so far this season.
Beilein has looked to guys like Stu Douglas and Zack Novak to step up as that third scorer, but both have been pretty much cold this season. Douglas is only averaging 6.9 points per game and shooting 31.9 percent from the floor, while Novak is not much better at 7.5 points per game and a dismal 28.3 percent from the floor.
“We have to have that second guard that can play defense and score a little bit,” Beilein said to the Free Press. “Between him, Darius [Morris] and Stu, one of them, I don’t care which one, has to have that on a more consistent basis.”
So, what about Lucas-Perry?
Michigan needs to have Lucas-Perry, who is only averaging 6.8 points per game and shooting 36.5 percent, continue his second half play from Thursday night. Since the Wolverines' schedule in the near future is brutal, they need a third option to go. With the likes of No. 13 UCONN, No. 17 Wisconsin, No. 4 Purdue, and No 10 Michigan State in a row, Harris and Sims can't do it alone. The Wolverines have already tried that and so far, it hasn't worked.
Not to mention games like one against a much improved Northwestern squad Sunday at Crisler and a rematch with the Hoosiers on Jan. 12
Michigan knows it doesn't have the key wins on its NCAA Tournament resume right now like it did last year. Another guard needs to step up and Lucas-Perry can be that man.