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January 30, 2002 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-30

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PORTS

michigandaily.com/sports
sportsdesk@umich.edu

WEDNESDAY
JANUARY 30, 2002

8

A

Best

chance

Michigan at Michigan State Tonight, 8 p.m. Breslin Center m ESPN-Plus
Amaker treading in,
unfamiliar territory

Depleted front
lines battle in
renewed rivalry
By David Hon
Daily Sports Writer

By Joe Smith
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
doesn't like horror films - at least
none featuring Michigan and Michi-
gan State.
The new coach hasn't watched the
Spartans' 91-64 drubbing of Michigan
at Crisler Arena last year, or the
painful sequel (78-57) at the Breslin
Center.
In fact, he's only seen bits and
pieces of previous games between the
two rivals.
But Amaker doesn't need to watch.
Everyone from administrators, coach-
es and players to the neighborhood
mailman have helped the new coach
learn about the state of the rivalry.
"We haven't faired too well," Amak-
er said yesterday with a shy grin. "It
hasn't been much of a rivalry as of
late."
Quite an understatement consider-
ing the fact that the Spartans have won
the past seven games - with the last
six Michigan State wins coming by an
average margin of 25 points. The com-
petitiveness of the once-storied rivalry
has more closely resembled Duke-
Davidson barnburners.
But Amaker also knows that a win
tonight can be a huge statement for the
team and the program, a step in the
right direction toward making a trip to
Breslin something to be excited about
- instead of feared.
"We're confident that we're going
to make this a competitive rivalry,"
Amaker said.
Amaker talks about the important
first step of gaining respect and credi-
bility. He has gained the respect from
Michigan State coaches with his
recruiting success and relationship-
building within the state. But a lot of
credibility is gained on the hardwood,
and another blowout loss could be
costly - while a win could be price-
less.
And this time, Michigan players
actually believe that a win is possible,
and that turning the tide on the rivalry
isn't that far away.
Michigan State (2-4 Big Ten, 11-8
overall) lost stars Jason Richardson
and Zach Randolph to the NBA Draft
over the summer, and the wheels have
just kept falling off this season for the
defending Big Ten champions.
"We've lost three Big Ten games in

the last 30 to 40 seconds," Izzo said.
"We've found some ways to lose, and
in past years we found ways to win.
"I think we're just one step off from
being a very good team."'
But injuries haven't helped the
cause.
Sophomore Adam Wolfe is out for
the season, and junior forward Adam
Ballinger will be playing at 85 percent.
But if Jason Andreas can't go due to a
heavily bruised pelvic bone, Michigan
State will be heading into battle with
just six healthy scholarship players -
with freshmen playing a bulk of the
minutes.
"I think we have a much better
chance than last year," sophomore
guard Bernard Robinson said.
"There was almost nothing you can
do about their talent last year, but I
think our talent level this year is
comparable.
"It's about all the small things like
turnovers and foul trouble and who can
make their free throws."
Even the Spartans agree.
"The energy is different this time,"
Ballinger said. "It's pretty obvious that
the teams are more even, and that gets
people excited."
This time around, there will only
be a few certainties: Forward Aloy-
sius Anagonye will commit nearly a
foul-a-minute, Amaker will get an
earful from the "Izzone," the
Wolverines will have problems on
the boards, and Izzo will celebrate
his 47th birthday.
Whether Izzo receives another
gift-wrapped birthday victory like
he did last year will be determined
by which team is tougher and if
Michigan (3-4, 8-9) can stay poised
in a tough road environment -
even when the Spartans make their
inevitable run.
Robinson, a Washington D.C.
native, said it didn't take him long
to become immersed in the Michi-
gan-Michigan State rivalry. In fact,
he said it only took a "friendly"
bump from the 6-foot-8, 255-pound
Anagonye in the teams' first meet-
ing last year.
It won't take Amaker very long
either. But he'll find out a lot about his
team - and his progress - tonight.
"For us to do better, it could show
that this could possibly be the rivalry
everyone wants it to be," Amaker said.
And not another scary movie.

How many departed Spartans does it take for Michi-
gan to get a rebound?
In two games against the Spartans last year (both loss-
es; 91-64 at Crisler and 78-57 in East Lansing) the
Michigan frontline was outscored and outrebounded by
an obviously superior and more athletic Michigan State
team. The Wolverines were outrebounded 83-47, and
their starting frontline was outscored by their Michigan
State counterparts 90-59. Foul trouble was another con-
cern for Michigan, especially in the second loss.
But oh, how times have changed. Those three post
players who dominated the inside last year - Jason
Richardson, Andre Hutson and Zach Randolph - all
bolted from Spartanland for the NBA. What was already
going to be a difficult rebuilding year for Michigan State
coach Tom Izzo became ever harder as his remaining
players started dropping like flies. When sophomore for-
ward Adam Wolfe (9.4 points and five rebounds per
game) went down against Penn State on Jan. 19, Izzo
was left with a frontcourt that lacks as much depth as
nearly any team in the Big Ten - except maybe Michi-
gan.
So who's left to play down low tonight?
Izzo, like Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, will be
playing an undersized lineup. The key matchup will
focus on the two legitimate big men: Michigan State's
Aloysius Anagonye and Michigan's Chris Young.
Anagonye has been steady for the Spartans in the
midst of rebuilding, averaging 8.5 points and 6.7
rebounds per game this season, good enough for sixth in
the Big Ten. But Anagonye has been finding himself in
foul trouble nearly every game, especially against teams
with strong frontcourts; he fouled out against Minnesota,
Iowa, Stanford and Florida.
"That's going to be a key factor - which team is
able to stay out of foul trouble on the frontline,"
Amaker said. "That could be one of the biggest fac-
tors in the game."
For his own part, Young has improved since the
beginning of the season, when he couldn't seem to
avoid picking up unnecessary fouls. Physically,
Young has an inch on Anagonye, but gives up nearly
40 pounds to the gargantuan Spartan. It will be diffi-
cult for Young to stay clean if Anagonye has him in
isolation down low.
Anagonye will be helped by 6-foot-9 Adam Ballinger
(9.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) who has a two-inch and 50-pound
advantage on Young's wingman, LaVell Blanchard (14.7
ppg, 7.0 rpg). The matchups tonight are obviously closer
than last year's, but the Wolverines - still undersized -
will still need to out-hustle and out-think the Michigan
State frontline.
"I'm sure it's going to be one of their strategies - to
attack me," Young said. "To see who can foul out, who's
the smarter post player, who's not going to pick up the
cheap little fouls."

Michigan sophomore guard Bernard Robinson said that both teams' talent level is nearly even.

Inside the paint
Series: Michigan leads overall series 88-63
Streak: The Spartans have won the past
seven games, including the past six by an
average of 25 points.
Last time M' won in Breslin: Jan. 25,
1997 - Michigan's front line of Robert
"Tractor" Traylor and Maurice Taylor com-
bined for 32 points, leading the Wolverines
to a 74,61 victory.
Quick facts: Michigan State handed Michi-
gan its worst loss in school history in March
2000, 114-63, at Breslin ... Despite a 2-4
Big Ten record, the Spartans are among the
top three in the conference in defensivex
rebounding, free-throw percentage and 3-
point shooting.
Latest: Freshman quarterback Aaron
Alexander is practicing with the Spartans. Chs Young

Keys to victory
Avoid foul trouble: Chris Young and
LaVell Blanchard must be smart and
selective defensively.
A solid start: Michigan can't afford.
another poor start and dismal shoot-
ing, especially in another tough road
environment.
Contain penetration: If Marcus Tay-
f or has his way, the Spartans will have
Stoo many easy buckets - and Michi-
gan's big men will have too many
fouls.
Get a body on someone: Rebound-
" ing is the staple of Michigan State pro-
gram, and Michigan's Achilles Heel.
ALYSSA wooD/Daily

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Sparty statue painted
under cover of night

By Steve Jackson
Daily Sports Writer

Yesterday was not a gobd day for
Sparty.
The famous sculpture of Michigan
State's mascot was covered in maize
and blue paint early in the morning.
The damage was so severe that
despite cleanup efforts, some blue paint
was still visible at 8 p.m. last night..
The colors and timing have led most

people to the conclusion that Michigan
students are responsible.
Michigan and Michigan State have a
basketball game tonight at 8 p.m. at the
Breslin Center.
"It's childish that Michigan students
chose to paint Sparty," Michigan State
freshman Brian Hamm said. "They
know as well as we do, that regardless
of Sparty's color, the Wolverines will
lose the game (tonight)."
- See SPARTY, Page 9

F,

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