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March 10, 1997 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-03-10

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The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - March 10, 1997-96

BASKETBALL

4Y4
1~ {
g~ Y
i9,bgan forward ~
~aurlce Taylor -'~
a~mmed home "'
a4onts yee
day He also
pulled dow a
re eamahi3 n 7
..~ohert Traylor
and the rest of ,4
the WolverInes
,1,looked onin -
earnest ,
S A siLLMAN/Daiuy
'Wovernes fel rdeemed
with come-from-behind win

Ayers' future up in the
air at Buckeyes'helm

By Will McCahill
Daily Sports Editor
COLUMBUS - Speculation was
rampant at St. John Arena yesterday,
and Michigan's tournament fate was-
n't the only topic of debate.
Ohio State coach Randy Ayers has
long been rumored to be on the hot
seat, and the Buckeyes' 86-81 over-
time loss to the Wolverines capped
off Ohio State's fourth consecutive
losing season.
The Buckeyes finished 10-17
overall, 5-13 in the Big Ten, a record
almost identical to last season's final
tally.
Michigan coach Steve Fisher
praised Ayers in the postgame press
conference, prompting one reporter
to characterize his speech as a eulo-
gy for the head Buckeye.
"That's no eulogy," Fisher said.
"Don't try to say that.
"I'm stating facts that you've got a
guy that's quality, and I know how it
feels when you don't win. It's hard."
Ayers himself sought to deflect
questions about his coaching future,
instead reflecting on his young
squad's efforts this season.
"I think everybody's made some
strides (this season)," Ayers said. "I
was really happy with the effort they
gave."
Still, Ayers was dogged by queries
on his next move.
Ayers said he is scheduled to meet
later this week with Ohio State ath-

letic director Andy Geiger and asso-
ciate athletic director Miechelle
Willis.
"I'd love to come back (next sea-
son)," Ayers said. "I've put 14 years
into Ohio State, I've enjoyed it and
my family's enjoyed it.
"Hopefully Il be around."
The Buckeyes' downward spiral
has been a quick one.
After taking the helm in 1989,
Ayers guided Ohio State to the sec-
ond round of the NCAA tournament
before losing to eventual national
champion UNLV.
The next two seasons brought Big
Ten titles to Columbus, and the
1990-91 squad earned a top seed in
the Midwest region after compiling a
27-4 overall mark.
Ohio State was again a top seed in
'92, and Ayers' squad - led by cur-
rent NBA star Jimmy Jackson -
made it to the Southeast regional
finals before losing to Michigan, 75-
71, in overtime.
The Buckeyes' slide began the fol-
lowing year.
In March of '93, Ohio State found
itself in the NIT with a 15-13 record.
The Buckeyes hit rock bottom in '95,
finishing with a 6-22 record and gar-
nering a mere two victories in the
Big Ten.
Last season, the freshman-packed
Ohio State squad finished 10-17,
finishing 10th in the conference.
Ayers said he wasn't sure all the

speculation wasn't a distraction to
his players during the course of the
season.
"I hope not," he said. "I don't
know - I haven't really talkedwdh
them about it.
"I told them from day one it's not
their responsibility to keep me here.
I wasn't going to put that pressure on
them."
Asked if he deserved to be back at
the head of the Ohio State bench
next season, Ayers shrugged and hes-
itated before answering.
"My sons think I do, I'll put it that
way," he said.
In the end, however, Ayers' closing
statements sounded som-ewhat likea
farewell.
"I've enjoyed it," he said of is
tenure. "I really have, and like I-said,
I'm looking forward-to talking 'with
(Geiger and Willis)."
Whether he stays at Ohio State or
is thrust into the merry-go-round of
college coaching firings and hirings
in the coming weeks, Ayers sagi he
thinks his future is secure.
"Like I said, I'm going to be talon
care of," he said. "I'm only 40, so
hopefully I'll be taken care of."-
Going into the season, Ayers was
not the only coach whose head was
on the chopping block.
Northwestern coach Icky
Byrdsong was supposedly on higvay
out, and indeed was dismissed, effec-
tive at the end of the season. -

,.By John Leroi coach Steve Fisher admitted his team
-Vioy Sports Editor flat-out quit.
-cOLUMBUS - Say what you Yesterday, that was not the case.
want about the Michigan men's bas- After a 3-pointer from Neshaun
:, ellall team, but that doesn't mean Coleman and two free throws from
th4Vaolverines will agree. Otis Winston, Michigan was down
the fans and the-media may still by-five points with just 30.5 seconds
Aik the Wolverines. are under- remaining.
.hIevers and quitters who didn't But the Wolverines didn't pack it
deserve to get into the NCAA tour- in this time, and that, according to
.-DORgent anyway, but the players say Taylor makes all the difference.
,-theyproved otherwise - at least to "No matter what's written in the
t14mselves - in yesterday's come- papers or what anybody says, no
rflm-behind win over Ohio State. matter what happens for the postsca-
".-tWe were down son, we proved to ourselves today
five with 30 sece- .that we're not quitters" Taylor said.
ends left and we "And that matters more to me than
epwld have given up anything."
.ight, there," 9 MAKE NO MISTAKE: Yesterday's
--cigan forward lote a win is no consolation for not making
Maurice Taylor the NCAA tournament, but it's
"sac But we -i something the Wolverines wouldn't
fosght, and I think have had a'week ago.
-.t# helps us out "I hope this turns heads on the
igre than anyone selection committee," Michigan for-
, the selection committee. It ward Maceo Baston said. "If it does-
;,h$&red us that we can win the clos n't, that's wrong, but. the win still
,ganpes." -. feels goo(."
«; 4nning the close games has been Witi. IF, STAY?: Rumors continue
onething that the Wolverines have to fly that Taylor will jump ship and
(one a poor job of this season. take his 10-point per game scoring
Mi j igan has lost five games by five average to the NBA.
poimts or less, and all but one loss When asked if he had played his
,hsvsbeen by single digits. last game as a Wolverine, Taylor said
tshings got ugly for Michigan on that he had no plans of leaving
Feb. 16 when they blew a 20-point Michigan, though he didn't rule the
second-half lead and lost in overtime option out.
toJJidiana. Taylor, who is projected by
That collapse started a- five-game ESPN's Don Levenhal to be a mid-
Ip tseg streak. to-late first round pick, hasn't exact-
, he worst of it came last Sunday ly put up the numbers people expect-
hen the Wolverines blew another ed him to this season, but it's his 6-
sa ead and lost to Illinois by 19 foot-9, 250-pound frame that has
rpoitts in a game that Michigan scouts drooling.
BUCKEYES the final 86-81 margin.
-Connued from Page 1B' The Wolverines ended the regular
season with two-consecutive victo-
I n, the inbounds play, junior guard ries, the first time they had accom-
Travis Conlan and Hughes double- plished the feat since late January.
;ceaTed Ohio State -guard Damon The streak came on the heals of five
egiger, forcing another Buckeye straight losses, however, and
turnover. Michigan did not get the reward it
- .onlan came up with the loose ball had been hoping for, and invitation
.p pushed it ahead to Hughes for a dri- to the NCAA tournament.
sving layup from the left side. Stringer Instead, the Wolverines will play
.4sfould Hughes in in the NIT,
.le,.act, putting which begins
,.Fthes on the T hogh Thursday
line with 11.2 when 16-12
,,sonds remain- hae Miami (Fla.)
ndMichigan visits Crisler
gjng toan81- finally found ! Arena.
79 ad. Still, the
-lughes then way to Win it 14.e victory was a
poJy nailed the relief for
.fre throw to put kept our heart and M i c h i g a n,
.-.gtjead at three which has lost
Hlughes then our intensity, and a number of
r,4paytStringer on close games
, thoJine with 5.9 the breaks came over the
.putds to play, course of the
. the sopho- our way. season.
ore hit both "We fought
i b - Mtacer Baston hard, and we
i.sn't enough Michigan basketball forward finally found a
for the on the Win at Ohio State way to win it,"
,.,Buejceyes, and Baston said.
Conlan hit two free throws to put the "We kept our heart and our intensity,
Wolverines up, 84-81, with 3.4 see and the breaks came our way."
ands remaining. Fughes was also savoring the feel-
bOhio State tried a full-court pass on ing of winning a close one.
,t,, inbounds play, but it went long and "It feels great, because we've
,opt of bounds, giving the ball back to played this hard all the time, and
ichigan. Winston fouled Bullock, :hings didn't ever seem to bounce the
hose two successful attempts from right way," he said.
the line iced the game and provided "Finally it bounced our way."

Taylor, of course, has worn black
socks emblazoned with the NBA
logo all year.
He cautions not to read into that
too much.
He says he has worn the stockings
for good luck ever since Michigan's
Dec. 8 win over Duke in Durham,
N.C.
SETTING A PRECEDENT: Just a note
for those of you who didn't know:
Michigan wouldn't have been the
first team, disappointed that it didn't
make the NCAA tournament, to
reject an NIT bid.
Georgia Tech and Louisville have
both refused to tango in the "Not
Invited Tournament," with the Yellow
Jackets doing so most recently -
last year.
POPPING BUBBLES: Somehow, that
NCAA tournament bracket looks
pretty vacant without Michigan's
name on it somewhere.
You'd also be hard-pressed to find
the word Syracuse anywhere
besides the site of the East Regional
final.
This is the first time in 14 years
that neither the Wolverines nor the
Orangemen were invited to the Big
Dance.
CAREER DAY: Michigan center
Robert Traylor scored a career-high
22 points in yesterday's win.
It was the first time Traylor ever
had a 20-point game.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Steve Fisher
had someone special to savor yester-
day's victory with.
His older brother John was at St.
John Arena to help out Detroit radio
station WJR with its radio broad-
cast
MICHIGAN (86)
FG FT REB
MIN M-A M-A 0-T A F PTS
Taylor 37 5-12 4-4 5-13 1 4 14
Basto 26 33 34 3-4 0 4 9
Traylor 34 7-11 8-15 4-8 0 4 22
Bullock 38 3-12 55 0-4 1 3 12
Conlan 39 35 2-2 1-1 3 2 8
Hughes 36 712 1-1 1-1 3 5 16
Ward 11 25 0-0 2.2 0 1 5
Streets 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Oliver 1 0-0 0-0 0.0 0 0 0
Syndlar 1 0-0 00 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 200 30-6023-317-368 24 86
FG%:.683. FT%:.742.3-point FG: 3-14,
.214 (Hughes 1-3, Ward 1-3, Bullock 1-7,
Conlan 0-1). Blocks: 1 (Traylor). Steals: 3
(Traylor, Bullock, Conlan). Turnovers: 20
(Hughes 5, Taylor 4, Traylor 4, Bullock 4,
Baston, Conlan, Ward) Technical Fouls:
none.
OHIO STATE (81)
FG FT REB
MIN M-A M-A 0-T A F PT
Winston 33 5-11 4-8 1-3 1 3 14
Jantonio 3 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Lumpkin 29 2-2 1-1 0-2 0 5 4
Coleman 22 7-11 1-1 0-2 0 2 16
Stringer 38 9-20 4-4 13 8 4 27
Singleton 31 4-5 0-0 2-3 4 3 8
Stonerook 38 1-5 3-7 3-6 5 5 5
Davis 11 0-1 0-0 1-1 1 1 0
Jackson 9 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 3
Eisenhard 11 1-1 2-4 2-2 0 2 4
Totals 200 30-5814-2412-26192581
FG%: .517. FT%: .583. 3-point FG: 7-19,
.368 (Stringer 5-9, Jackson 1-1, Coleman 1-
3, Jantooo 0-1, Stoneook 0-2. Winston 0-
3). Blocks: 1 (Coleman. Steals: 7
(Lumpkin 2, Stringer 2, Davis 2,
Stonerook). Turnovers: 15 (Stringer 4,
Coleman 3, Stonerook 2, Davis 2, Winston,
Lumpkin, Singleton, Jackson). Technical
Fouls: none.
Michigan ..... 30 44 12 -86
Ohio State .......33 41 7 -81
At: St. John Arena
A: 12,570

SARA STILLMAN/Deiy
Ryan DeKulper embraces Brandun Hughes after the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, but their celebration was short-lived. The
Wolverines will host Miami (Fla.) in the first round of the NIT.

LERI
Continued from Page 1S
tournament like the players believe
they do, then the best way to prove it
is to win the NIT, not to wallow in
self pity and say the NIT is beneath
them.
Fisher said earlier in the week that
he would only accept an NIT bid if
he felt the postseason experience
would "jumpstart" the team next
year.
Yesterday he said he wouldn't take
the Wolverines to the NIT if "their
hearts weren't in it."
After last week's disaster at
Illinois, no Wolverine could find a
pulse, let alone his heart. But the
same wasn't true yesterday.
Everyone expected the Wolverines
to beat the Buckeyes.
But with their NCAA tournament
hopes already destroyed thanks to
Wisconsins upset of the second-
ranked Golden Gophers the night
before, and the Wolverines down by
five points to the Buckeyes with just
30 seconds left, the Wolverines could
have easily packed it in and gone
home.
But for whatever reason, the
Wolverines didn't.
For the first time in a long time,
they played the way they did during
the final 10 minutes of their win over
Duke on Dec. 8.
The win over Ohio State wasn't

nearly as colossal, but it proved that
this team was not a bunch of quitters.
And that, coupled with their deci-
sion to play in the NIT, proves that
the Wolverines aren't quite as arro-
gant as we thought.
"If we had laid an egg today and
hadn't fought hard, we might not be
talking (about playing in the NIT),"
Fisher said yesterday.
The Wolverines will have an
opportunity to gain some much-
needed. post-season experience,
something they haven't had much of
the last two seasons.
Miami (Fla.) isn't just a football
school anymore.
Though not nearly as talented as
Michigan is, the Hurricanes will be a
quality opponent.
If the Wolverines actually play
their remaining games with the pas-
sion they say they will, the
Michigan basketball program can
only benefit.
After winning the NIT in 1984, the
Wolverines reeled off back-to-back
Big Ten titles - their last two con-
ference championships.
History may not repeat itself, but
frankly, Michigan has no where to go
but up.
Think the Wolverines have a lot to
lose in the NIT? I think you're right.
Think they don't belong there?
You're wrong.
- John Leroi can be reached over
e-mail atjrleroi@umich.edu.

Read Daily Sports for complete coverage of Michigan's NIT run

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