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February 18, 1999 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-18

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 18, 1999

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Rivalry sparks Redemption Day

By Josh KleInbau
Daily Sports Editor-
Somehow, he kept a straight face. Sitting at a table
in Crisler Arena, addressing the media,
just two days before Redemption Day,
Michigan basketball coach Brian
Ellerbe actually tried to downplay
tonight's 7:30 game at Crisler Arena
against arch-rival Michigan State.t
"Every game for our basketball team
is a big game," Ellerbe said. "Every sin-
gle one of them."<
But with the Wolverines winding
down one of their worst seasons in
recent memory, can any game really be
all that big? This year saw a five-game
losing streak for just the second time in
the past 16 years. It saw a loss to
Northwestern in which the Wolverines scored a,
measly 34 points, their lowest since 1951. The culmi-
nation of it all? For the first time since 1983,
Michigan, in all likelihood, will be shut out of post-
season play.
And therein lies the beauty of the rivalry game -
it's always a big one.

True, a win will not magically lift Michigan into the
NCAA Tournament. But spoiling the fourth-ranked
Spartans' hopes of a top seed in the Big Dance -
beating the hated rivals when they are
flying so high, trying to clinch a Big Ten
title, and the Wolverines are so low -
now that's poetic justice.
"It's so emotional, so intense,"
Michigan guard Robbie Reid said.
"We're a very good team when we play
emotional."
Of course it's going to be intense. You
want bad blood? Alert the Red Cross,
S.because these two teams have enough of
it to make blood drives obsolete.
Members of the Fab Five did
unspeakable things to the Spartan 'S' at
center court of the Breslin Center after
one game. The Spartan faithful chanted 'C-B-A' at
Ray Jackson and Jimmy King in 1995, then broke it
out again for Louis Bullock and Robbie Reid earlier
this year. Sean Higgins jumped on the Crisler Arena
scorer' table and went crazy after a two-point
Michigan win in 1990.
And that's just in the '90s.

Then you've got the Spartans' All-America guard,
Mateen Cleaves. His story? As a senior in high school,
he was sitting in the back seat of a Ford Explorer, diri- x
ving to Ann Arbor from a late-night Detroit soiree,
when the car flipped over. Cleaves escaped unharmed,
but that little incident could have ruined his career.
Oh, by the way, then-Michigan forward Maurice
Taylor was driving the car, and the accident sparked a
two-year NCAA investigation that crippled
Michigan's recruiting. Hence its not-so-spectacular
season.
Yeah, there's bad blood up the wazoo.
And don't forget the Last Hurrah Factor for
Michigan guards Bullock and Reid. The Wolverines
have one home game left after this, but a sold-out con-
test against the hated Spartans is a much better last
hurrah than a half-empty one against lowly Penn State.
Throw them all together and you've got yourself a
good, old-fashioned, mean-spirited, raise-all-hell rival-
ry game.
"This is the kind of game you dream about,"'
Bullock said. "When you have a team coming in that's
that good, and you have a chance to play against them "=
on your home court, that's what it's all about."
with

Don't et caught
upi Spartans
hpe ts season
~eahyeah, yeah. We've heard just enough about the
F Spartans here in Ann Arbor these days, and all about
the Flintstone vitamins or whatever. To be honest, we
don't care.
OK, so maybe the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, by ,.
most measures a far more fan-friendly place than the soporif-
ic Crisler Arena, is a bit more crazy these days.
Hold on.
I'd better explain that.
You know, for all the vocab-chal-
lenged that are reading this (hint, you're
probably wearing green). 'Soporific'
means sleepy. The way cows get before
you tip them.
But anyway, Crisler, long derided as
generally a bad place to take in some
hoops, is getting better. Even though RICK
the team that plays there might not be FREEMAN
getting all sorts of national attention Freeman of
(we'll get to that later) the fans still the Press
come and scream themselves hoarse.
Here at Michigan, we thought it was
bad enough that the students used to have to sit up high,
while to get a courtside seat you either had to be a wealthy-
alum or bake one heck of a cake. Until the Michigan powers
that be moved some students to the section behind the scorers
table, the place had all the hum and buzz of a library.
Hold on.
I'd better explain that.
A library is a place where ... oh, never mind.4
Anyway, what really gets our latt6s steamed here in Ann
Arbor is just thinking about the adoration the national media
,has given to these adorable little green men up in East
Lansing.
They've got a song! They're the Flintstones, (get it?)
Because they're all from Flint! And the fans sing it all the
time!
And if that's not enough,then there's the idiots in green
who will come fill a section or two at Crisler - fairweather
fans following a team ripe for an early Tourney exit.N
Sorry to be such a Sparty pooper, but it's true.=
Like Fred Flintstone (I won't even attempt the Sisyphus<
reference here), Sparty and his minions look doomed to dis- 'r
appointment.s
Their fans, even more so than their team, are vastly over-
rated. The Izzone is out in the ozone. When Michigan lastr
visited Breslin, the Izzoners began chanting 'N-I-T' without
knowing that that would be A-0-K for Michigan this season.t
Michigan, unlike most Spartan teams (especially ones
fielded by student publications) has proven they can win
:there, too.
- Rick Freeman is willing to tade any Michigan
'National Champions' T-shirts (football or hockey) P POTO
with any State student who will teach him Michigan State forward Antonio Smith and the rest of the Spartans will fight it out with Michigan tonight In Cdsler Arena. But when
how to drive their combine harvester you're unathletic and out of shape, you must wage your battles with the pen -as Rick Freeman and Joe Rexrode are doing here.

Spartansonly ones
with somethbito
celebrate tonght *
is is just what Michigan State and Michigan need
- a renewal of the rivalry to break up the February
d oldrums:
The Spartans are tired of dominating the Big Ten and
ready to move on to the postseason. The Wolverines are
simply tired. A campaign littered with losses to teams like
Florida International and Western Michigan will'get old
quick.
But the Wolverines should be up for tonight's battle.
After all, Michigan coach Brian
Ellerbe's team has had nine days to try
to figure out a way to pull off a sea-
son-saving upset.
With no NCAA or NIT games to
look forward to, you gotta have some-
thing to shoot for, eh?
One thing noticeably absent of late
JOE is the hostility that traditionally accom-
REXRODE panies the game. Where's the trash
The State talk? The obscene gestures to the
News crowd?
The only thing I can figure is that
Michigan is finally cleaning things up.
No longer is the squad made up of guys who have more
felonies than credits in an average semester. The Chris
Webbers and Juwan Howards of the world have moved on
to various NBA cities, where the weed is stronger and the
young women more vulnerable.
Look at Michigan's stars now - Louis Bullock and
Robbie Reid. Genuinely nice guys. Truly good sports.
Their personalities (and games) will fit perfectly with the
bingo parlors and truck stops of CBA cities.
At least the fans still like to go at it. Well, the fans who
really know what side they're on. It seems that thousands
of "Maize-and-blue backers" - you know, the ones with
no ties to the school and hats carved in the shape of a
Wolverine - have been rummaging through their attics,
looking for the MSU sweatshirts they bought when the
Spartans made the Rose Bowl in 1988.
Can you blame them? They just want to have something
to do in March.
Of course, the 'real' fans can be found in Crisler Arena,
which has yet to sell out for a Big Ten game in 1999.
Chances are it'll be packed full tonight, though. And with a
little help from the Michigan State contingent, including
traveling members of the now-famous Izzone, the place
may actually get louder than a Friday night at the UGLi for
once.
You good people in Ann Arbor probably didn't expect to
see that this season, did you? But then, if someone had told
you a few months ago that Crisler would be the site of a
Big Ten championship celebration, you probably would've
laughed - in a hushed, reserved manner, of course. 9
- Joe Rexrode, a State News sports writer, is offering a
free "Back to Back Big Ten Champs " shirt to anyone who
can get him one of those plastic Wolverine-shaped hats.

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