INDIANAPOLIS-- If it were just Manny Harris, maybe Iowa could find an answer.
If it were only DeShawn Sims, maybe the Hawkeyes could slow him down.
But when the Wolverines’ one-two scoring punch is clicking together, the opposition becomes about as helpless as Iowa coach Todd Lickliter looked.
Harris and Sims combined for 36 of the eighth-seeded Wolverines’ 59 points in a 59-52 Big Ten Tournament first-round victory over ninth-seeded Iowa earlier today, propelling Michigan into a quarterfinal matchup with top seed Ohio State.
When Harris opened the scoring this afternoon with a pull-up three-pointer and Sims followed up with back-to-back easy hoops inside, Michigan was well on its way to knocking the Hawkeyes out of the tournament on Day One for a third straight season.
Wolverines coach John Beilein credited the big numbers for Harris and Sims to his stars’ teamwork. “They room together, they see each other a lot, and they look for each other in our offense quite often,” said Beilein.
“Sometimes too often,” he added with a wry chuckle.
Indeed, Harris finished with five turnovers, many of which came from trying to find Sims underneath the basket. The roommates/teammates both entered the game listed among the conference’s top five scorers, and the two stars obviously each have a great deal of faith in the other’s scoring ability.
“They’ve really done a good job with that, they’ve clicked together, and it’s no secret we try to go to the two of them a lot,” Beilein said.
Harris in particular stood out against the Hawkeyes with his determination to attack inside and get to the free throw line. The 6’5” junior guard sank nine charity tosses on his way to the 22-point effort and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds to boot.
“He played confident,” Sims said of Harris afterwards. “He let the game come to him.”
Teammate Zack Novak agreed with Sims’ assessment.
“When [Manny’s] on, he’s really tough for anybody to stop,” said Novak. “When he just lets the game come to him, we’re a really good team.”
Good enough to upset the Buckeyes? Beilein wasn’t ready to go quite that far. “We’ll just do our best,” the coach shrugged. “That’s all we’re going to do.”
Novak said his team was looking forward to the challenge of trying to upset Evan Turner and company in Friday’s quarterfinal. “We’re confident going in,” said Novak. “They’ve got a lot of talented guys…but we’re going to be ready to play.”
Ultimately, the Wolverines’ hopes most likely rest on the shoulders of their “Big Two,” and that’s just fine with the Maize and Blue. “DeShawn is one of the leaders in the Big Ten in shots taken and Manny is pretty close,” Beilein summarized.
Of course, what the coach left unspoken was pretty obvious as well: “And that’s the way we like it.”
Let’s just say that with their one-two punch of Harris and Sims clicking, the Wolverines are planning on hanging around Indianapolis for more than one night.
So far, they’re off to a good start.
For more Bleacher Report coverage from the Big Ten Tournament, follow Tim on Twitter at @TimCary.