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November 22, 1999 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-22

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SportsMonday - November 22, 1999 - The Michigan Daily - 3B

Michigan 82, Oakland 62
Michigan toasts Champagne, Oakland

T. J.
BERKA

,

By Mark Francescutti
Daily Sports Writer
Sorry - got caught in traffic.
Heavy thunderstorms and Michigan's
Weshmen wreaked havoc on Oakland
this past Friday night. The rain and traf-
fic caused the Golden Grizzlies to arrive
late on their 50-mile trip to Crisler
Arena.
The tardiness carried over to the game
as Oakland fell flat in the first half, while
the Michigan men's basketball team
cruised to an 82-62 victory.
The Wolverines won their first season
opener and first home opener under
coach Brian Ellerbe, thanks to a huge
Offensive rush in the first half
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies looked like
they were late and lost, netting only
seven field goals and 19 points in the
first 20 minutes.
"I can't tell you what happened in the
first half, I don't know," Oakland coach
Greg Kampe said. "It might be my fault,
we left at 4:30 and we couldn't get here.
It was after seven and we're just getting
in. Our players were in a panic and we
layed like it."
On the other end of the court, every-
thing looked fabulous for Michigan's
freshmen. Gavin Groninger and LaVell
Blanchard began their Michigan careers
with a 3-pointer each, as Michigan went
on runs of 6-0, 15-1 and 17-2. The
Wolverines at one point led 40-10,
before Oakland cut the margin to 42-19
at halftime.
"We came out with unreal intensity
d we were all over the ball," starting
Wnter Josh Asselin said. "Everyone was
moving the ball. I think we stressed that
we wanted to come out and defend our
home floor. That's our pride."
While many fans focused on the
Wolverines freshmen, a sophomore rose
as the high Michigan scorer in the final
stats.
Sophomore Leon Jones backed up
Ellerbe's decision to place him in the
grtig lineup, tallying 22 points and
l e rebounds, while providing a strong
slashing presence.
"I think Leon has gained a lot of con-
fidence over the summer," Asselin said.
"Everything he's done in preseason and
over the summer has shown that he's
really come to play. Last year he might
have been a little hesitant, but now he
realizes as one of the veterans that he has
to step up."

Oakland stormed back in the second
half, giving the young Wolverines a jolt
of reality.
"I think one of the things with young
teams is when you get up early, you get
a false pretense of why and how you got
up," Ellerbe said. "Young guys think
they got up because they made a lot of
shots, and they got up because they
played defense.
"The shots we started to take in the
second half were good shots, but they
weren't timely shots. We should have
worked the ball around more."
Taking advantage of Michigan's cold
stretch, the Grizzlies broke out of their
shooters' block and pushed the ball
inside to forward Dan Champagne, who
scored 26 points.
Oakland hit four straight jumpers at
one point to trim Michigan's lead to
nine. On the Grizzlies' next possession,
however, Jason Rozycki's jumper swum
around the rim before trickling out. The
miss turned into an easy Blanchard dunk
at the other end, along with a momentum
change Michigan wouldn't relinquish.
"There was a sense of urgency,"
Asselin said. "All of sudden we had a big
lead and it was diminished to nine. We
realized we had to step up again and it
showed a lot of poise from our team"
The freshmen showed their all-around
talents in the victory, as four out of five
of them hit their first career shots. Guard
Jamal Crawford had 21 points. Guard
Kevin Gaines added six assists and
Blanchard chipped in 12 points and six
rebounds.
Still, turnovers were a problem.
"We scored 82 points and we had 27
turnovers," Ellerbe said. "If we can cut
that in half, we can probably be where
we want to be - in the 90's close to 100.
"But that's youth. They're going to
drive me nuts, but we're going to stick
with them. We're going to have a lot of
mistakes, but we never can not work
hard. We aren't going to accept that"
Ellerbe benched freshman Kevin
Gaines for the first several minutes as
punishment for breaking an unspecified
team rule.
"We had to make sure that he has to
follow suit and adhere to all the rules,"
Ellerbe said. "No one is bigger than the
program. He served his time."

It deftinitely was a better
season than you think

DAVID KATZ/Daily
Michigan sophomore Leon Jones had 22 points Friday in the Wolverines' season
opener against Oakland. "I can't be shy ... if I'm going to be a leader," Jones said.
Jones leads exWs
Blue offense with 2

Men's basketball box score.
Page 2B.

By Jacob Wheeler
Daily Sports Writer
The understudy now stands in the
spotlight.
There were times last season when
Michigan guard Leon Jones' pride hurt.
He sat on the bench through the pro-
gram's most dismal season in 17 years,
while veterans Louis Bullock and Robbie
Reid tried in futility to carry the team,
launching one 3-point attempt after
another.
Jones didn't get much playing time a
year ago, and when he did, he nailed only
29 percent of his shots and less than 20
percent of his 3-pointers.
But one year later - after Bullock's
and Reid's departures, and his own surge
of confidence - Jones has become one
of the key actors in the backcourt. He
started at small forward on Friday night
in Michigan's season-opening victory
against Oakland, and submitted an
Oscar-worthy performance.
Jones led all Wolverines with 22 points
on 9 of 15 shooting, and punctuated
Michigan's explosive first-half start with
a tip-in and 3-pointer, back-to-back,
increasing Michigan's lead to 28 points
with 5:49 remaining in the half.
"He's playing like he has a year under
his belt, and that's old on this team," said
Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe. Ellerbe
acknowledges that Jones took his micro-
scopic team role personally last season,
and that it might have inspired him to
work harder over the off-season.
But instead of sitting off stage in the
limelight, while the seniors played out
their last season in Michigan uniforms,
now Jones is one of the veterans. He bal-
ances out a backcourt filled with fresh-
men who exhibit talent, but also first-
year imperfection.
"My role on the team is different this
year," said Jones. "I'm more of a leader

to some of the younger guys on the team.
I can't be shy or go out there with a lack
of confidence if I'm going to be a
leader"
Friday night was a perfect example of
the stability that Jones brings to
Michigan. In a surprise move, Ellerbe did
not start bona-fide point guard freshman
Kevin Gaines because, as he said during
the post-game press conference, Gaines
broke an unspecified team rule.
"We had to make sure that he under-
stands he's very important to the team,
but he's got to follow suit with what we're
doing," Ellerbe said. "I think he was a lit-
tle unsettled, not quite sure when I was
going to put him in."
Despite the lightning-quick coast-to-
coast dribbles and the no-look passes he
showed in two exhibition games, Gaines
didn't enter his first college game until
four minutes into the first half-
It had no apparent effect on
Michigan's game plan, as Jones teamed
with freshmen Jamal Crawford and
Gavin Groninger to manipulate
Oakland's lethargic backcourt. In the
campaign's first minute Groninger and
Blanchard sank 3-pointers, on assists
from Jones and Crawford, and by the
time Jones nailed his first long-range
shot, Michigan held a 14-4 lead.
Jones' outside shots and aggressive
play sparked the Wolverines all night. He
nailed three of five shots from behind the
3-point are, but it was one drive to the
hoop that impressed Ellerbe the most,
because the sophomore appeared tenta-
tive too often last season.
"He had the best play of the game,"
said the third-year coach. "Stepping from
behind the (free-throw) line, he drove to
the hoop on one dribble and just layed it
up. We need plays like that from him.
We've got to get those from Kevin
Gaines as well."

There are few things better than
a football victory if you are a
fan of Michigan athletics.
Seeing the Wolverines march up
and down the field for touchdowns
inspires a great deal of excitement
for the fans of maize-and-blue.
But there is something just as
good as seeing your team win.
While reveling in a victory over
Ohio State in the last game of the
season is one of the highest
moments in a Michigan fan's life,
there is a moment that rivals a vic-
tory as far as the giddiness that it
causes.
That extra-special moment?
Seeing your archrivals fall flat on
their faces.
This season has been extra spe-
cial for the Wolverines. While the
1999 season isn't quite as exciting
and memorable as the 1997 national
championship season, it has had a
lot of value.
And it's not due to anything that
Michigan has done on the field.
Don't get me wrong, a 9-2 season
isn't shabby by any means, even if
it did involve a loss to Illinois.
Neither is the likely invitation to
the Orange or Fiesta Bowl, two
rather appealing bowls.
Though the football team had a
good year, Michigan fans are a
pretty spoiled group, similar to
teenage movie stars. They expect
the Wolverines to be among the
nation's elite, so this year's 9-2
record is seen as ordinary, as mis-
guided as that may be.
But what is not ordinary - but
makes for a fun-filled season - is
the tragic but deserved fate of two
of Michigan's most hated rivals,
Ohio State and Notre Dame.
The fact that these teams have
shown the football competence of
'The Little Giants' makes me want
to dance a jig.
The Buckeyes, with their annoy-
ing helmet stickers and their twice-
as-repulsive battery-throwing faith-
ful, are enough to make a Michigan
fan puke.
And Notre Dame, with their silly
little green man jumping around
and praising the luck of the Irish
after harrowing wins over Navy,
inspires some Michigan fans to
boycott NBC.
So when the Wolverines beat the
Buckeyes on Saturday, preventing
Ohio State from winning the bag of
potato chips and 40-ounce bottle of
malt liquor the Motor City Bowl
pays out to whoever wants to spend
Christmas in Pontiac, my holiday
cheer increased tenfold.
But honestly, this event was
months in the making. When Ohio
and Cincinnati - two teams that
would be eliminated in the opening
round of the Rhode Island high
school playoffs -- grabbed early
leads on the Buckeyes, you could
tell something was wrong.
As for Notre Dame, the luck of

the Irish was about as useful for
them as a wetsuit in the Sahara.
Time and time again, the Fighting
Irish would muddle around in the
game's final moments by missing
assignments and taking sacks.
So when I got home from
Saturday's game and saw Boston
College smacking Notre Dame
around on television, my holiday
cheer went to a level normally
attained with the use of illicit
drugs.
I even bought my friend a Mr
Spot's Chicken Philly due to my
glee.
But the cheeriness and friendli-
ness I have because of this great
event does have its drawbacks.
Because I was feeling like a nice
guy, I figured that the Ohio State
and Notre Dame fans deserved
some sort of prize for watching
their team clown around for three
months.
So after much deliberation, I
decided to repay these horribly mis-
guided, but loyal, fans. This prize, I
figured, would be to have the
Fighting Irish and Buckeyes joust
in their very own bowl.
I realize that there are plenty of
useless bowls already out there and
the introduction of a bowl featuring
two sorry national pretenders would
dilute an already saturated market.
Therefore, I decided to put this
showcase game in an extravagant
location. With Miami, New
Orleans, San Antonio and Los
Angeles already taken, I thought
that Gary, Ind. could be a prime
location.
I also figured that this game
would need to have a catchy name
and a highly respected corporate
sponsor to garner the interest of the
nation.
So the Camel Lights Smoke Bowl
is born.
Thanks to the lack of clean air in
northwestern Indiana, it will be
easy for the city to acclimate itself
into the bowl's concept.
To attract television viewers, the
Smoke Bowl will jazz things up.
Instead of flipping a coin at the
beginning of the game, the captains
of Ohio State and Notre Dame will
engage in a shoot. So instead of call-
ing heads or tails, the captains will
be doing paper, rock, or scissors.
Also, when one team scores, an
assistant coach from the other tea.
is picked from the sidelines and
brought to the middle of the field.
After that, the mascot from the
scoring team flogs the unlucky
coach unmercifully with a crowbar.
OK, so maybe I'm not the nicest
guy in the world. But having the
Buckeyes and Fighting Irish shut
out of the bowl season brings joy to.
all the world
- T Berka can't believe the good
fortune that has graced this football
season. He can be reached at
berkat@unmich.edu.

t

DAVID KATZ/Daily
Center Josh Asselin (with ball) fought his way to a double-double against Oakland
Friday, with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

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