The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 3, 2003 - 5B
Talkin' the talk
"Biggest game of my career."
- Michigan forward LaVell Blanchard, after the
Wolverines' loss to Illinois, when asked how the matchup
with the Illin compared to the other important games in
the senior's career.
Players of the game
Eight of Cook's 26 points came
late in the second half to give Illi-
nois the lead. Some of those points
were aided by favorable calls.
In his next to last home game, Blan-
chard was in the zone from outside,
stroking 7-of-Il 3-pointers for 25
points to go with seven boards.
Painful loss shows
Michigan point guard Daniel Horton shares a look of disgust in a huddle during a timeout. The freshman struggled all after
noon for the Wolverines, connecting on just 4-of-17 shots.
Powelis defense makes final
minutes difficult for Blanchard
how far 'AV
C inderella's clock appears to
have finally hit midnight.
With the Big Ten's regular
season title hanging in limbo, Michi-
gan and No. 18 Illinois slugged it out
in what was arguably the confer-
ence's most exciting game of the
But when the dust settled, the
floor with a
well-earned CHRIS BURKE
tory. Goin' to work
devastated Wolverines were left to
comtemplate what might have been.
"We haven't been fortunate to win,
but they've been two of the most
entertaining games we've played this
season," Michigan coach Tommy
Amaker said of the Wolverines' two
losses to Illinois.
"They earned the win."
Let's be honest: Michigan
deserved better on Saturday.
With 13,057 fans making up what
might have been Crisler's most bois-
terous crowd of the year, the Wolver-
ines put on a show.
Michigan matched the potent Illini
blow-for-blow during the first half,
taking a 46-44 lead into the break.
The fireworks continued after the
intermission, as senior LaVell Blan-
chard connected on three of his
career-high seven 3-pointers, and the
supporting cast chipped in admirably,
as the Wolverines built a 66-59 lead
with just over 10 minutes left.
The Wolverines were playing like
last Wednesday's 73-42 collapse at
Wisconsin was merely an aberration
for a team destined for a Big Ten
After that, though, for really the
first time since the 0-6 start to the
season, Michigan came back down to
And by the time Wisconsin
slipped past Minnesota yesterday
afternoon, the Wolverines' glass
slipper was completely off, the car-
riage had turned back into a pump-
kin and Michigan's dream run at a
conference title was all but ended.
What it would take for the
Wolverines to grab a share of the
regular season crown now would be
even more of a miracle than the
sudden and spectacular turnaround
that they had pulled to get in posi-
tion to make Saturday's game hurt
"It's tough to take, because we
played so hard, and we executed,
and we still lost," freshman Daniel
That's the painful double-edged
sword that the Wolverines and their
fans are now left with in the after-
math of the loss to Illinois.
On the one hand, just think of
how far this team has come in so
short a time. From the laughing-
stock of college basketball to being
on the cusp of winning the school's
first conference title since 1985-86.
In just over three months, this team
has placed Michigan basketball
back on the national radar.
But on the other hand, the
Wolverines let a glorious opportuni-
ty slip through their fingers against
Illinois. A win would have left
Michigan needing to finish 2-0
against Purdue and Penn State to
guarantee a conference title.
Maybe that's why Saturday's loss
hurts so damn much.
It's been such a long time since
anything the Michigan basketball
program has done on the court has
meant so much.
This wasn't just another early
March conference game where the
Wolverines were going through the
motions while finishing out an 11-
18 or 10-18 season.
This was, finally, a Michigan
team playing for something bigger
than "pride" or moral victories.
"The crushing part of it is we
played so hard but still came out
with a loss," Michigan guard Lester
Abram said. "We played hard
enough to win the game, but it did-
n't happen today."
At the start of the year, a second-
or third-place finish in the Big Ten
would have looked like an outstand-
But the victories, and week after
week being on top of the Big Ten
standings gave the Wolverines and
their fans another look at what suc-
cess feels like.
There's no question that the loss
to Illinois hurts, but the Wolverines
can take solace - if only a little -
in the fact that losses only hurt this
bad when the games mean so much.
Illinois..... ........... 44
38 - 82
33 - 79
At: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor
10 4 20 5
10 4 20 6
9 5 16 11
85 6 8
9 6 17 9
8 6 16 11
7 7 17 10
6 8 14 11
6 8 13 12
3 11 11 14
1 13 6 19
FG FT REB
MIN M-A M-A 0-T A F PTS
Cook 36 8-18 8-10 3-7 5 3 26
Powell 35 6-9 4-6 1-7 3 0 18
Augustine 20 3-4 1-1 1-5 0 4 8
Williams 30 0-2 2-2 0-2 5 0 2
Brown 34 4-11 0-0 1-2 7 2 9
Head 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 1 0
Harrington 26 4-10 0-0 0-2 0 1 12
Smith 16 2-2 3-6 1-2 0 3 7
Totals 200 27-56I S-22 8-28 21 14 82
FG%: .482. FT%: .818. 3-point FG: 4-10, .417 (Har-
rington 4-8, Cook 2-6, Powell 2-3, Brown 1-5, Augus-
tine 1-2). Blocks: 1(Cook, Williams, Smith). Steals:
Brown 3, 1(Augustine, Williams). Turnovers: Brown
3, 1 (Cook, Augustine, Williams, Harrington). Tech-
nical fouls: none.
FG FT REB
MIN M-A M-A 0-T A F PTS
Robinson 39 3-9 2-2 0-3 6 1 9
Blanchard 33 9-14 0-0 1-7 1 3 25
Brown 24 4.5 2-4 3.9 0 4 10
Abram 34 5-7 5-5 1-3 2 3 16
Horton 39 4-17 2-2 0.1 5 1 12
Harrell 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Groninger 7 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 0 0
Hunter 22 2-4 3-4 1-2 1 1 7
Totals 200 27-56 14-4710-3217 13 79
FG%:.482. FT%:. 24. 3-point FG: 5-12,478 (Blan-
hcard 7-11, Horton 2-6, Robinson 1-3, Abram 1-2,
Hunter 0-1). Blocks: 1(Robinson, Hunter). Steals: 1
(Robinson Blanchard, Abram). Turnovers: Horton 5,
Robinson 3, 2 (Blanchard, Brown), Hunter. Technical
By Charles Paradis
Daily Sports Writer
Saturday's basketball game at Crisler Arena quickly
proved to be a clash of epic proportions.y
It looked like neither team was going to
miss a shot, as Michigan and Illinois,
two of the top three teams in the Big
Ten, came out on fire. The stars led the
way for both teams, as the Fighting Illi-
ni's Brian Cook .and the Wolverines'
LaVell Blanchard scored team-highs of
26 and 25, points respectively.
Blanchard was especially hot in the first half. The senior
forward connected on four of his six shot attempts from
behind the 3-point arc and hit both of his shots inside the
paint for 16 points before the break.
In the second half, Illinois made several defensive
adjustments, but none was bigger than switching Roger
Powell to guard Blanchard. Blanchard had continued to
knock down the three at the beginning of the half, until
Illinois coach Bill Self called on the athletic forward to try
to shut down the hot-handed Wolverine. Blanchard's play
wowed all those who saw him, including Self who knew he
would have to figure out some way to stop Blanchard to
win the game. .
"LaVell was awesome," Self said. "Their whole team
played great. Roger still let (Blanchard) hit two threes on
Rog, but Roger is competitive, and I don't think LaVell got
another shot off the rest of the game."
Powell and Self had a simple strategy to shut down
Blanchard: Never lose him.
"I just didn't leave him," Powell said. "I stuck to him
like Velcro. He was hitting some big shots, so I couldn't let
him get any air."
The strategy worked. With Powell on Blanchard, the
Michigan tri-captain was stifled. Blanchard hit one triple
even with ,Powell's hand in his face as he elevated in the
corner over Powell and knocked down the shot. This just
served to ignite Powell's competitive nature.
"Coach said, 'Stick to him."' Powell said. "So that's
what I did. He hit one on the baseline on me, and I was in
his face. I was like, 'Wow, I've got to get up on him a little
After that, Powell was Blanchard's shadow, and as a
result, Blanchard did not score in the last eight and half
minutes of the game.
Brian Cook and Dee Brown typically get all the atten-
tion directed toward Illinois, but Powell has been an inte-
gral part of the, team's recent success.
"Hopefully I'm going to continue to play with a chip on
my shoulder," Powell said.
Powell's move from a role player to a leader has been a
tough but necessary component of the team's success.
While a few weeks ago people were asking him if he could
continue to play so well, now it is taken as a given in
Champaign that Powell will be there when needed.
THE GREAT HOUDINI: In the first half of Saturday's game,
Michigan freshman Lester Abram was perfect. He hit all
five of his field goal attempts, including a 3-point shot
from the top of the key, and made all five of his free throw
tries. His ability to hit the outside shot and drive to the
hole created matchup problems for Illinois.
After Abram's hot start Self tried to matchup forward
James Augustine to quiet the 6-foot-6 swingman. But
Abram easily blew past Augustine for a layup.
After the half, Abram was all but nonexistent. He
attempted two shots in the entire second half and missed
both, including an open three to tie the game with less than
a minute to go. He was also unable to get to the free throw
line like he had in the first half.
Part of the problem was that Cook took up the duties of
guarding Abram. The taller Cook was more agile than
Augustine and could stay with Abram easier. Abram also
picked up a few whistles in the second half, which he said
hampered his ability to stay aggressive.
"The first half I wasn't in foul trouble, the second half I
was," Abram said. "That is about it."
Minnesota at Indiana.
MICHIGAN at ,frt $tate
Ohio State at Northwestern
Illinois at Wisconsin
Iowa at Michigan State
Wisconsin 69, Minnesota 61
Last Saturday's games:
ltinois 82, MiCHm 79
Northwestern 85, Penn State 79 (20T)
Michigan State 69, Purdue 61
Indiana 91, Iowa 88 (OT)
Chris Burke can be reached at
Indiana at Penn State TBA
Michigan State at Ohio State TBA
Minnesota at Illinois TBA
Purdue at MICHIGAN TBA
Northwestern at Iowa TBA
Continued from Page 18
shot in the half after scoring 16 in the
first, then put up a shot that had all the
hopes of a Michigan Big Ten Champi-
onship on it. The attempt, taken from the
left side of the key, was off, and Roger
Powell grabbed the rebound before
being fouled. It was the second time this
season that Abram had missed a 3-point-
er in the final minute of the game that
could have tied the score, with the first
such shot coming in a loss at Minnesota.
A wild Abram layup attempt and
three Illinois free throws later, the game
was over and Michigan had failed to
defend its all-important home game.
"We had a couple of chances," Abram
said. "Had we got a stop when Dee
Brown took that jump shot that would
have been huge. We didn't get that stop.
Then I missed the 3-pointer to tie it up,
and then I missed the layup. We just
couldn't get it done down the stretch." ,
"It was hard to take a loss like this
especially because either team could
have come out of this victorious," jun-
ior Bernard Robinson said. "And to be
taken at home like this and to lose
such a meaningful game, it hurts a lit-
Robinson put the Wolverines up by
seven with 10 minutes to go in the
game. But much like the first time the
two teams met, Cook took control late in
the second half, as he poured in eight
points in less than three minutes. He was
aided by the refs, who made two ques-
tionable calls on Michigan center Gra-
ham Brown than sent Cook to the free
throw line. -
Unlike the first time the two teams
met, Blanchard went step-for-step with
Cook, a fellow senior, as he scored 25
on 9-for-14 shooting and grabbed seven
boards. After the game, Blanchard in a
moment of rumination, admitted that
Saturday was the "biggest game of my
"He was determined, and single hand-
edly got us off to a good start," said
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker who
unexpectedly stood up and prematurely
ended his post-game press conference
Saturday. "I think he was determined to
will his way to a good performance
With Wisconsin's road victory over
Minnesota yesterday, it will take a Wis-
consin win over Illinois on Wednesday
and a Minnesota win at Illinois next
weekend combined with Michigan win-
ning its last two games for the Wolver-
ines to capture the Big Ten
AT PENN STATE
The Wolverines hope to right their
ship against the struggling Nittany
Lions. Michigan beat Penn State in
the last meeting between the two
teams 66-53 on Jan. 11.
Penn State is in a tight battle
with Northwestern for the 11th
seed in the conference tourna-
Michigan will close its season
this weekend with the Boilermak-
ers at home. The Wolverines
upset Purdue on the road 78-67
on Feb. 19. This will also be the
final game at Crisler Arena for
senior tn-captains Rotolu Adebiyi,
LaVell Blanchard and Gavin
HOW THE AP Top 25 FARED
ST. JOHN'S 72, No. 6 DUKE 71: Duke might want to rethink
the strategy to schedule a nonconference game on the
road in March.
The Blue Devils (20-5) were looking like they were in
prime position for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament
until St. John's (13-12) scored the last 12 points of yes-
terday's game to stun Duke.
After St. John's missed a shot to take the lead
with 30 seconds left, the Blue Devils looked
like they would hold for the last shot.
But St. John's guard Marcus Hatten
stripped the ball from Duke guard
Daniel Ewing and was fouled on a Marcus
drive to the basket with no time left Hatten
on the clock.
ing five consecutive turnovers during a game-clinching run
in the second-half.
The loss was Georgia's first game since former player
Tony Cole laid out a string of allegations against Georgia
assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., claiming Harrick commit-
ted academic fraud and gave him money.
Georgia (17-8) had won four straight coming into the
game, but the Wildcats were able to move to 14-0 in
No. 15 SYRACUSE 93, GEORGETOWN 84 (OT): Carme-
lo Anthony is hotter than the girls of Cancun.
Despite missing two free throws that could have
put a Syracuse win away with 30 seconds to go
in regulation, the freshman dominated George-
9. Notre Dame
12. Wake Forest
This weekend's results
Beat No. 19 Stanford 72-69
Beat No. 21 Georgia 74-66
Beat Texas A&M 69-64
Beat Auburn 73-70
Beat Texas Tech 76-71
Lost to St. John's 72-71
Beat No. 16 Oklahoma State 79-61
Beat Connecticut 71-67
Lost to Rutgers 95-82
Beat UAB 98-87
Beat East Carolina 82-76
Beat Clemson 80-68
Beat George Washington 71-70
Beat N.C. State 68-65