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January 15, 2002 - Image 8

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0

SORe TSidigan aiI

michigandaily.comIsports
sportsdesk@umich.edu

TUESDAY
JANUARY 15, 2002

8

Key game
early for
preseason
favorites
By David Horn
Daily Sports Writer
Doing anything tonight? You might want to
check out ESPN for what will likely be one of the
most interesting games of the Big Ten regular sea-
son: Iowa at Illinois.
The Hawkeyes are coming off an embarrassing
11-point loss at home to Indiana on Saturday.
They are 2-2 after the loss,
and face an Illinois team that BASKETBALL
has not lost in Assembly Hall Notebook
in 26 games.N
Illinois is also 2-2 after
returning home on Saturday to defeat Michigan,
94-70. The Illini had dropped two-straight Big
Ten road games, and their toughness and readi-
ness were being questioned by their coach, Bill
Self, and by their fans. While defeating Michigan
(which is smaller and generally less talented than
the 11th-ranked Illini) was a necessary step to
recover from what could have been a nasty down-
ward spiral, the true test for this injured Illini
squad will be tonight.
"(This) is obviously a game both teams have
had circled on their calendars for quite some
time," Self said. "Three losses for either team
early on would certainly make it ... a tough row
BIG TEN STANDINGS
Conference Overall
Team W L W L
Indiana 4 0 11 5
Ohio State 3 0 12 2
Minnesota 3 1 10 5
Illinois 2 2 13 4
Iowa 2 2 13 5
Wisconsin 2 2 9 8
Michigan 2 2 6 7
Penn State 1 2 5 9
Purdue 1 3 9 9
Northwestern 0 3 8 6
Michigan State 0 3 9 7
Tonight's game:
No. 17 Iowa AT No. 11 IWNOIS, 9 P.M.
Tomorrow's games:
Northwestern AT MICHIGAN, 7 P.M.
Penn State AT OHIO STATE, 8 P.M.
Minnesota AT WISCONSIN, 8 P.M.
Purdue AT MICHIGAN STATE, 8 P.M.

JON
SCHWARTZ

Blowout, then fall out.
An ugly pattern for icers

Blandon Ferguson and the rest of the 11th-ranked Illini are anxious to get back above the .500 mark In
conference after back-to-back road losses early In Big Ten play. They face No. 17 Iowa tonight at 9 p.m.

to hoe, so to speak."
Illinois will still be missing forwards Lucas
Johnson and Damir Krupalija. Johnson, who has
not yet played this season, hopes to return to the
lineup by the end of January. Krupalija, who
played outstandingly well for the Illini during the
stretch run last year, says that he is "in the early
stages of a stress fracture."
Without them, it will be up to center Robert
Archibald and forward Brian Cook to carry the
load down low against an equally apt Iowa front-
court. Both Illinois big men played well against
Michigan, but the Wolverines do not have a post
player like Iowa's Reggie Evans. Evans leads the
Big Ten in rebounds with 11.7 per game and is
fourth in the conference in scoring with 17.7
points per game. He will be helped by the Big
Ten's leading scorer, Iowa guard Luke Recker,
who is averaging 18.4 points per game.
HOOSIERDADDY?: Indiana forward Jared Jef-
fries was named Big Ten Player of the Week yes-
terday. Jeffries averaged 23.5 points per game in
the Hoosiers'two wins over ranked teams last
week. In Indiana's 83-65 win over Michigan
State, Jeffries scored 21 points, dished out seven
assists and grabbed eight rebounds. Against
Iowa, Jeffries scored 26 points - including the

Hoosiers' final six - and pulled in seven
rebounds. Indiana is one of two unbeaten teams
in the Big Ten with a 4-0 record, along with Ohio
State. It cracked the Top 25 yesterday, moving up
to the No. 25 spot.
TOURNAMENT CONSIDERATION: It's never too early
to start thinking about March. With every Big Ten
team beating up on every other Big Ten team, it is
starting to seem like there are no clear power-
houses in the conference. No Big Ten team is
ranked in the top 10 nationally, and only three
teams rank in the Top 25.
The conference has, in the past, been allowed
as many as seven teams into the NCAA Tourna-
ment, but some are concerned that this new Big
Ten (in which everyone seems to be .500) won't
place well come March. Iowa is among the teams
in the conference that are playing below expecta-
tions, but coach Steve Alford is confident that the
conference will still receive its due respect.
"There's such good parity from top to bot-
tom," Alford said. "On a down year, the Big
Ten has usually taken five (teams to the tourna-
ment). When you look at the history of the Big
Ten ... it's "up" all the time. The Big Ten has
been, consistently, one of the best leagues in
the country."

Nfver underestimate the power of
humiliation. Never doubt the effect
that it can have on a team's psyche.
Never think you're better than you are.
This is what I was thinking at about 9:30
p.m. Friday night. Sitting in the Yost Ice
Arena stands, I watched Dwight Helminen
score Michigan's fifth goal of the night and
realized that Michigan's success in the first
game of the two-game series with Alaska-
Fairbanks might hurt it in the second.
My fears were compounded about a minute
later when Jed Ortmeyer made it 6-0.
Ortmeyer would score again, ending a joke
of a hockey game at 7-0. But the Nanooks got
the last laugh, taking a 3-1 decision from
Michigan on Saturday night.
Haven't we seen this before?
It happened against Fairbanks last year,
when Michigan won 8-0 on Friday night only
to lose 5-2 Saturday. Michigan beat Notre
Dame 9-0 in the teams' first meeting last year.
The two teams tied 4-4 the next time out.
To win a game 2-0 demonstrates a defen-
sive prowess that most teams envy. It shows
an opponent's complete inability to touch
your team. In 60 minutes, they didn't put the
puck in the net once. Not even once, by acci-
dent.
Similarly, an 8-6 win shows a remarkable
ability to light the lamp. To score eight goals
in one game means that your opponent's
defense is so out of whack that a few of your
scores were probably flukes.
Still, a team that gives up just two goals will
usually win, as will a team that scores six.
But to lose 8-0, or 9-0 or 7-0 shows a com-
plete inability to compete. Not only could
your team not score, but it also let the oppo-
nent take it behind the woodshed, giving up a
goal every eight minutes or so.
Humiliation has gone a long way for Alas-
ka-Fairbanks so far this season. The team that
was picked to finish last in the conference
preseason poll was ranked No. 14 in the
nation coming into this Michigan series.
No, the Nanooks don't shy away from
competition or pressure. Rather, they see it as
chance to prove something else to the world;
an opportunity to ascend even higher, despite

the fact that their heights will forever be
below college hockey's radar.
I wasn't in Fairbanks' lockerroom after Fri-
day night's game, so I can't possibly know
what was said. But the vision in my head is of
a lot of down heads until one player - I'm
not sure who - stood up and let his team-
mates know that they could not allow them-
selves to be pushed around anymore.
And upstairs in Michigan's lockerroom, I
see that team telling itself not to take the
Nanooks lightly the next night. But let's be
serious. When you beat a team 7-0, you're
just not going to take them seriously the next
night.
If what happened had been an anomaly, it
would be easy to discount it. So Michigan lost
a game. It happens.
But since the start of last season, Michigan
has three times scored seven or more goals on
a Friday night. Each time, it's lost the next
night.
Any coach would ream out a player who,
after winning a game decisively, talked trash
to the Ppponent. Michigan is famous for
holding post-game press conferences at
which nothing remotely newsworthy is said,
because the coaches are terrified of saying
something that gives the opponent any extra
motivation.
In my mind, demolishing a team on the ice
is no different than telling the media what you
really think about your opponent. With 10
minutes left Friday night, the Nanooks were
so demoralized they couldn't beat five stu-
dents on the ice and a Deker in goal. But
Michigan still poured on two more goals.
I'm not going to say that Michigan should
stop playing after it scores five goals. That's
stupid - you need to go all out.
But if you're going to give it everything,
you need to do it every time out. If you're
brash enough to kick a team while its down,
which Michigan surely did Friday night,
you'd better be ready to face the cavalry Sat-
urday night.

p.
0
0

Jon Schwartz can be reached at
jlsz@umich.edu.

Wolverines, State face
'dogfight' in new era

CCHA STANDINGS
Team W L T Pts GF GA
Michigan State 11 4 1 23 54 26
Michigan 1 0 4 3 23 57 38
Ohio State 9 5 2 20 42 36
Alaska-Fairbanks 9 8 1 19 48 54
Northern Michigan 8 6 2 18 46 33
Ferris State 8 8 1 17 51 45
Notre Dame 6 6 4 16 54 47
Nebraska-Omaha 6 7 3 15 40 40
Western Michigan 6 8 2 14 45 54
Miami 6 8 214 40 48
Bowling Green 4 10 2 10 45 59
Lake Superior 3 12 1 7 23 65

Rebounds, turnovers to
blame for Michigan's ills

By J. Brady McCoflough
Daily Sports Writer
It seems like an eternity has passed
since neither Michigan nor Michigan
State claimed the top spot in the CCHA
at the end of the regular season. The
Wolverines and Spartans have combined
to win the last five conference champi-
onships and seven of the last eight.
At this season's CCHA Media Day, a
familiar question was posed: Can this be
the year that a new team upsets the bal-
ance of power in the conference? Many
said it was possible, but the majority
didn't believe it would happen.
But after looking at the standings
more than halfway through the confer-
ence slate, it is feasible that the Wolver-
ines and Spartans could meet their
match this season. Michigan and Michi-
gan State are tied atop the conference
with 23 points apiece with a crucial
showdown on the horizon this Saturday
at Yost Ice Arena.
Drooling for the opportunity to

unseat the Wolverines and Spartans are
eight teams separated by a miniscule
six points. The first of these contenders
is Ohio State, which has earned 20
points thus far, placing the Buckeyes on
the heels of the top two spots. Ohio
State will have its chances to vault to
the top of the standings, as the Buck-
eyes still have two games against
Michigan and four against Michigan
State.
"It's going to be a dogfight," Alaska-
Fairbanks coach Guy Gadowsky said.
"Looking at the standings now, I don't
think you can extrapolate anything. I
think it's going to come down to the last
weekend. In one weekend, you can
move up a handful of positions."
Because of this weekend-to-weekend
shuffling in the standings, every single
game means that much more and could
end up defining a team's season.
"I don't think this is something new,"
Gadowsky said. "Every game is so
tight, like playoff hockey. You can't ever
walk into a building and have a guaran-

teed two points."
Michigan State, which dominated the
conference race last season by losing just
four games, equaled that number with a
2-0 loss to Western Michigan Saturday.
"Last year, we had an upper-class,
predictable team every night,' Michigan
State coach Ron Mason said. "That's the
kind of team you have to have to run-
away and hide (from the competition)."
There are many possible reasons for
the parity of the 2001-2002 campaign.
One of those is improved defense
throughout all of college hockey. A
team without as much talent can com-
pete by keeping the score within reach.
"Very few of us have players who get
50 points anymore," Northern Michigan
coach Rick Comley said. "The game
has become such a defensive game. You
don't get many of those 7-1 games any-
more."
Another huge factor in the emergence
of smaller programs is the lack of schol-
arships that Michigan and Michigan
State can now offer to players. In the
past, schools were allowed to offer as
many as 22, but that number has been
reduced to 18. The Wolverines and
Spartans may nab 18 talented players,
but the other four are now skating for
different teams.
"The talent pool is large," Western
Michigan coach Jim Culhane said. "The
difference between that outstanding,
top-tier player and that second-tier play-
er isn't very big."
But even though the gap is closing
between the two perennial powers and
the rest of the CCHA, the smaller

By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
STATE COLLEGE - About a
month ago, the Michigan women's bas-
ketball team was flying high. After win-
ning 10 straight, the team had its sights
set on winning the Big Ten, hosting its
first ever regional and advancing farther
then the team has ever gone before. But
what is the team working on now?
"Passing and catching," coach Sue
Guevara said.
After falling to 1-5 in the Big Ten, to
say the wheels have come off this team
would be an understatement. A ranked
team that beat defending national
champion Notre Dame, Louisiana State
in Baton Rouge and Washington in
Seattle is now yearning to beat anyone.
"It's back to the point where my very
first team was way back when," Gue-
vara said of taking over a program that
was 7-20 in the 1995-96 season before
she was hired. "Because they had been
beaten so badly before it's like they
walk into a gym saying 'let's lose, but
let's just lose close."
The problems with this team on and

off the floor are numerous.
While the Wolverines held teams to
35.7-percent shooting from the field in
nonconference play, opponents have
been shooting 45.3 percent against
them during Big Ten action. After out-
rebounding te.ams by more than 12
rebounds a game in non-conference
play, Michigan's rebounding edge has
evaporated to about two boards a game.
And the team continues to turn the ball
over at an incredible rate - 19 times a
game in conference play.
"We're not playing smart basketball,"
Guevara said. "and we're not playing
team basketball."
But the most alarming problem with
the Wolverines is the lack of intensity
they have shown in recent games on
both sides of the ball.
"I believe it's a very mental thing
right now" Guevara said. "It's like, OK,
if we can improve passing and catching,
if we can improve our free throws, if we
can improve being in weak side. It's
almost like we have to take baby steps."
While the team has shown bright
spots at certain times - as Jen Smith
played very well on Sunday against

6

Michigan center Jen Smith has done
well inside, but her team Is struggling.
Penn State and Susana Jara and
Stephanie Gandy stepped up in bigger
roles on Thursday against Ohio State
- Guevara and her coaching staff are
currently at a loss for how to turn this
team around. Guevara is even consider-
ing bringing in Michigan Kinesiology
professor Tom George - an expert on
the psychology of sport performance
- as a team consultant.
"He worked with us for a while early
and I'm game to do anything and
everything," Guevara said. "We have to
go back to Basketball 101, and I have to
pray to God that I can get people to
respond."

Women's track leads until last second

By David Oxfold
Daily Sports Writer

The Michigan women's track team knows all about broken
hearts.
It came up one point short this weekend in a dual meet at
Indiana. The team lost 81-80, with the margin being decided
in the final event of the meet.
Entering the 4x400-meter relay, the Wolverines were ahead
77-76. Just one relay team from each school could score,
with five points awarded to the winner and three points
awarded to the runner-up. It was clear that Indiana needed to
win the relay, and it did so, taking the relay in the fourth and
final leg, winning by .72 of a second.

Tia Trent not been disqualified and stripped of the win in the
600-meter dash for cutting in too early on the stagger. But
Trent made up for the faux pas, taking the baton on the last
leg of the 4x400-meter relay with her team roughly 15 meters
behind, and overtaking the lead nn the final curve.
Michigan (1-1) can take solace heading into next week-
end's Red Simmons Invitational in Ann Arbor because it
feels the score would have been differenthad so many team
members not been injured.
"A one-point loss is never bad," Takacs said. "If everyone
was healthy, and we did not have so many injuries, we would
have been in great shape. In fact, we all should take a lot of
positives out of how close we really were, despite our disad-
vantages. Our goal now is to get healthy and to get ready for

I ~'1~ I

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