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March 12, 1987 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-03-12

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NCAA

Tournament

The Michigan Daily -Thursday, March 12, 1987 - Page 10
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Navy

Frieder and Heathcote team for tournament

By JEFF RUSH
Three questions need to be
answered in analysing tonight's
NCAA tournament first-round
matchup between Michigan (19-11)
and Navy (26-5) at Charlotte, N.C.
(7 p.m., Channel 2).
-Can Wolverine Gary Grant
break his NCAA tournament jinx?
-Is Navy All-American David
Robinson good enough to single-
handedly lead his team past a more
balanced Michigan team?
-What does Michigan State
coach Jud Heathcote think?
HUH? Isn't Michigan coach
Bill Frieder the one who must
figure out how to guard the man
who probably will be the NBA's
number-one draft pick this year?
Well, yes. But he's not planning
how to combat Navy alone.
Frieder and Heathcote conferred
on the subject Monday night while
watching a high school prospect in
Holland, Mich. Heathcote, the only
coach who has played both
Michigan and Navy this season,
was more than happy to provide
answers to all of the above
questions.
On Grant - While the junior
guard has scored only 16 total
points in four previous tournament
games, Heathcote is convinced that
Grant's inconsistent days are gone,
and that he has emerged as a capable
leader of the Wolverines. "I look for
Gary Grant to have a big game
against Navy and I think Michigan
needs that," said Heathcote.
ON ROBINSON -
Heathcote pointed out that a team
can stay with Navy even when the
seven-footer is playing his best
basketball. Robinson set a career-
high against the Spartans this
season with 43 points (and 16
rebounds), but Navy barely beat the
weak Michigan State team, 91-90,
in overtime. Later in the season,
Heathcote pointed out, Robinson
set another career-high with 45
points, but the Midshipmen still
lost to Kentucky, 80-69.

"Sometimes he can't carry them
to victory," said Heathcote. "I don't
think their supporting cast is what
it needs to be if Michigan plays
their game."
Heathcote's final words on the
game? "I think Michigan is the
better team," he said. "They can't
play as badly as they did against
Illinois, and they probably won't
play as well as they did against
Purdue. Their performance is going
to have to be some place in the
middle. If it's a middle-of-the-road
performance, that might be good
enough to get themselves a
victory."
And that's what Frieder's troops
have been working toward all
season. A poster on the wall of the
Michigan locker room listed one of
the Wolverines main goals as
receiving an NCAA bid.
THE COACHING staff and
the media gathered in the locker
room Sunday night to watch the
announcement of the tournament
pairings. Michigan was one of the
first tournament teams announced.
It didn't take Michigan's coaching
staff long to realize that they had to
play the top college player in the
country in the first round. If they
win that game, they probably will
take on the top seed in the East
Region - North Carolina.
"Can you believe that? That's a
pretty tough deal," joked Frieder.
"Robinson is one of the great
inside players," said Frieder. "I
haven't seen a better inside player
in a long while - including
(Patrick) Ewing and all of them."
CENTER MARK Hughes,
the only Michigan player present
when the pairings were announced,
was similarly excited and nervous
about facing Robinson in the
opening game.
"I've seen him play this year
quite a bit and I know he's the best
player in the country," said Hughes.
"He'll probably be picked number
one in the NBA draft.
"What can I say? He's the best

4

Daily Photo by SCOTT LITUCHY
Wolverine coach Bill Frieder (left) will call on Loy Vaught to help shoot
down Navy's aircraft carrier, 7-1 David Robinson.

center in the country, so he's going
to be a big challenge for us. But if
we play inside defense like we did
against Purdue, we'll beat them."
Though Heathcote thinks Navy's
supporting cast is weak, Frieder is
worried that having to concentrate
defensively on Robinson may cause
breakdowns.
"When you give as much help as
you do to defense Robinson, then
you're susceptible to three-point
shots and things like that," said
Frieder.
NAVY'S TOP three-point
shooter is Doug Wojcik, a 6-2
guard who hit 43 of 102 three-point
attempts this season, while

averaging 9.2 points per game. Tlie
only other real three-point threat is
6-4 guard Cliff Rees, who made 30
of 88 attempts. Rees' scoring
average of 11 ppg is second on the
team to Robinson.
Robinson's frontcourt mates are
6-6 Carl Liebert (9.7 ppg), and 6-7
Derric Turner (7.0 ppg).
"This year (teams) are going to
take us lightly when we come in,"
said Antoine Joubert. "If they take
us lightly, we've got a good chance
to win.
"I think if we let (Robinson) get
his shots and contain the other
people, we've got a good shot at
winning the game."

Navy All-American David Robinson is the only player in NCAA history to
score over 2,500 points, grab over 1,300 rebounds, and shoot over 60 per-
cent from the floor during a career.

I

Tip of the Kap
Y
SBY RICK KAPLAN

A throw-away season, Bill Frieder said.
Before the season, Michigan's basketball coach
told everyone who would listen that the 1986-87 team
would struggle. Its inexperience would cause
inconsistency, he claimed. "It's going to be the type
of team," Frieder said last October, "that is going to
have to have everything break right to experience
some success."
The squad broke quickly from the gate. Michigan
opened with seven wins against weak non-conference
competition in its first nine games. The rest of the
season, though, has been marked by streaks.
THE WOLVERINES lost four of six around
the holidays. Then, after a rousing comeback in a 85-
84 loss to Big Ten leader Indiana, Michigan pulled its
game together. Six straight wins followed, including
upsets of nationally-ranked Syracuse and Iowa, and a
road sweep at Northwestern and Wisconsin.
Back on the road in early February, Michigan
looked horrible in consecutive losses to Ohio State,
Indiana, and a terrible Michigan State team. But
Northwestern, Wisconsin, and fellow conference
doormat Minnesota arrived on the schedule at the
right time, allowing the Wolverines to reel off three
more wins.
The season ended with three games against Top 20
competition: Iowa, Illinois, and Purdue. With an 18-9
record entering that stretch, the Wolverines appeared
bound for the NCAA tournament,
iless they lost all three.j
Iowa downed Michigan, 95-85, '
on a nationally-televised game at
Iowa City. Despite trailing by
large margins the entire game, the
Wolverines showed flashes of
effective play, and did not embarrass
themselves. They saved that
indignity until the Illinois game, an
89-75 Illini victory that left
handwriting on the wall: the letters
N-I-T.
Michigan found an eraser three
days later, and rubbed out Purdue,
104-68, clinching an NCAA bid
and fifth place in the Big Ten.
FIFTH PLACE is a far cry
from the conference championships
Michigan won the previous two ,:

Surprising Blue:
a successful season
them out there against a lot of veteran players in
the league."
The forwards struggled in the early going. Glen
Rice, the only big man with any conference
experience, was Frieder's lone consistent performer up
front in the first part of the season. The sophomore
finished second in rebounding in the Big Ten, behind
Illinois' Ken Norman.
The remainder of the frontcourt was, as advertised,
rough around the edges. Centers Mark Hughes and
Loy Vaught effectively supported Rice on the boards,
but were up and down offensively all season.
Frieder did not expect to start Gary Grant, Antoine
Joubert, and Garde Thompson every game. "The thing
that bothers me most about the three-guard lineup is
that it's not going to survive in the Big Ten," the
Wolverine coach said in October. "We probably won't
go with three guards in the Big Ten season."
WHOOPS.
If not for the trio of backcourt men, the
Wolverines would have been much slower, more
boring, and a lot less successful.
Grant's numerous offensive and defensive talents
began to be realized. His ball-handling skills,
shooting touch, and Hands of Steal make the junior
one of the best two-way players in the country, but
he is still only regionally recognized. NBC
commentator Al McGuire asked two weeks ago,
"Who is this Gary Grant? Why
don't I know more about him?"
These ridiculous questions say as
much for Grant's lack of respect as
McGuire's ignorance.
Ignoring his backup status of the
past three years, Thompson made
the best of the chance to start in his
senior season. Due mainly to 43
percent shooting from behind the
new three-point line, he increased
his scoring average from 4.9 to
14.2 points per game. He was
particularly dangerous at Crisler
Arena. On the road, he did not look
for his shot as often.
Joubert finished his Wolverine
career with a two 30-point efforts,

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