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January 09, 2003 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-01-09

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Thursday
January 9, 2003
michigandaiiy.com
sportsdesk@umich.edu

SPORTS

01

8A

Frantic rallysecures
cagers' eighth victory

NAWEED
SIKORA

By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Writer
With 5:36 left in last night's game
between Michigan and Wisconsin, things
couldn't have
1 o o k e d WISCONSIN 65
bleaker for
the Wolver- MICHIGAN 66
ines.
Michigan had put just 13 points on the
board in the second half, and was steadi-
ly watching its Big Ten opener slip away
to the tune of a 59-44 deficit.
But senior LaVell Blanchard - who
had been sitting on the bench after start-
ing the night 2-of-13 from the floor -
returned to the lineup, and the Wolver-
ines' hopes quickly returned with him.
Blanchard hit three consecutive 3-
pointers to pull Michigan within eight
points with just under four minutes to go,
turning around an evening that had, to
that point, been miserable.
"When I hit the first one and saw the
ball go through the bottom of the net, I
said, 'This is it, if we make a run, we've
got to make a run now,'" Blanchard said.
But while Blanchard's hot streak
pulled Michigan back within striking

distance, it was freshman Daniel Horton
who took the Wolverines over the top.
After two Kirk Penney free throws
pushed Wisconsin's lead back to 10,
Horton proceeded to sink two from
behind the arc and a pair of free throws
to cut the lead to 65-61.
Michigan stopped the Badgers and
then Blanchard, who finished with 17
points, found himself open again and
drilled a 3-pointer from the wing to
make the score 65-64 with just over a
minute to go.
"Blanchard was struggling all game
but we had said that we were going to
stick with it and have faith," Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker said. "He has
ignited it for us, and Horton has been
able to carry us through."
Neither team was able to score over
the next minute and after a traveling call
against Wisconsin (0-1 Big Ten, 10-3
overall) with 18 seconds remaining,
Michigan got the ball back facing a one-
point deficit.
The Wolverines again put the ball in
the hands of Horton, and the phenom
managed to hit a running one-handed
jumper over two defenders, capping off
See BADGERS, Page 9A

Fearless freshman gives
Blue glimmer of hope

9

Michigan true freshman Dan
Wolverines to a 66-65 victor

Nystrom, Helmnen back from.

TThere's only one thing you can say
about Michigan freshman point
guard Daniel Horton's astounding
performance down the stretch of last
night's win: Fearless.
It's been several years since a player
like him has donned the maize and blue.
Someone not afraid to take the ball in
clutch situations - and confident
enough to deliver. Someone who does-
n't back down in desperate situations,
and is able to turn it on in a moment's
notice.
With enough heart and passion to fill
Crisler Arena last night, Horton put on
one of the most gritty, determined and
miraculous performances Michigan
RYAN WEINER/Daily fans have ever seen.
iel Horton raises his fist in triumph after willing the And as the freshman marched down
ry over Wisconsin last night. the court, ball in hand, with just under a
minute to play and Michigan trailing by
one, he was poised. He knew it was his
hockey haVen time, and he could do no wrong.
A nearly impossible running bank
shot with four arms in his face, followed
difference was that the 2003 team "had a lot more by an unthinkable blocked shot against
chemistry" than last year. Wisconsin's Devin Harris on the defen-
The Michigan players took on bigger roles this year. sive end triggered a court stampede.
Nystrom was surprised but thrilled to be named captain. He finished with one rebound, but it
"Oh, it was an honor," Nystrom said. "To represent was the biggest of the game: He only
the best 20-year olds and be the captain? And I had one blocked shot, but it was unfor-
wouldn't have picked a better group of guys to lead." gettable.
Both Wolverines dressed for all seven games. Helmi- You can argue that Michigan should
nen scored four points on a goal and three assists. Nys- have never been in that situation to
trom notched a shorthanded goal and two assists. begin with. If LaVell Blanchard had
Nystrom and Helminen returned excited from their been able to settle down in the first half
trip, and although Michigan coach Red Berenson said and drop a few shots, the 15-point
guys don't always play well right after the 11-day tour- comeback would never have been nec-
nament, the team is glad to have them back for this essary. If the Wolverines had buckled
weekend's home-and-home series with Western down on their inside defense in the first
Michigan. 20 minutes of the game, they wouldn't
"It's like a family getting back together," Berenson have needed a lero.
said. "There's been a couple of empty stalls in that But as it turned out, Michigan dug
locker room for the last couple weeks. And when you itself a hole. The Wolverines had been
see Dwight Helminen sit down, when-you see-irhm-there before numeroustimesbut they
skate, he adds something to our team. And so does haven't had a go-to-guy to feed with the
Nystrom." game on the line. They haven't had a

player tough enough to take it at the
defense in the closing moments.
Certainly, Blanchard's revival late in
the second half was just as important to
the victory as Horton's performance.
But last night, Horton became Michi-
gan's go-to-guy. The comeback began
with Blanchard, but ended on the wings
of the freshman.
"It shows that we have a lot of char-
acter," Horton said. "When we started
0-6 a lot of people were doubting us and
saying that it is the same old Michigan
- but it is not."
By engineering one of the most excit-
ing Michigan basketball victories in
more than four years so early in his
career, Horton is giving the program a
reason to believe a turnaround is in the
near future. He proved that he has the
potential to put the Wolverines on his
back and lead them to victory.
Tommy Amaker seems to have got
just what he was looking for when he
signed Horton. A court leader who
could single-handedly dig them out of
holes. Someone who wants the ball.
The only question lingering in the
minds of Michigan fans everywhere is
will he be able to maintain this torrid
pace. Playing nearly 40 minutes every
game, it seems as though having Horton
on the floor has become a necessity for
this team. Will he have the energy five
or 10 games down the road to put
together another magical performance?
"I think I can still play better," Horton
said.
A performance topping last night's
would definitely be something to see. In
fact, it might even be a little scary. But it
certainly won't be scary enough to
frighten Daniel Horton.

By Courtney Lewis
Daily Sports Writer
Nearly a quarter of a million fans flocked to Halifax
and Sydney, Nova Scotia for the 2003 IIHF World
Junior Hockey Championship Dec. 26-Jan. 5. To Eric
Nystrom, it felt like every one of them was rooting for
Canada.
Nystrom, along with Michigan teammate Dwight
Helminen, helped Team USA to a fourth-place finish
- the best American showing since 2000 - but he's
not sure that anybody in the eastern Canadian
province noticed.
The home team "might as well have been the
only team there, the way the press talked it up,"
Nystrom said.
-But both Wolverines enjoyed playing in the hockey-
crazy country and said the highlight of the experience
was the semifinal game against Canada (which later
lost the gold medal game to Russia).
Helminen called it "unreal" and, even though Yost
Ice Arena is known for its intense crowd, Nystrom said

it doesn't compare to the Halifax Metro Centre during
the Americans' 3-2 loss to their northern neighbors.
"That was the loudest arena I've ever been in in my
life," Nystrom said. "I've never heard anything like it.
Even when we scored, they just stood up and started
giving (the Canadian team) a standing ovation again."
The two sophomores - who returned to Ann Arbor
Monday and resumed practice with the Wolverines on
Tuesday - were impressed with the host cities
throughout the tournament. Nystrom had two words to
describe the area: "Hockey haven."
"People there embraced the tournament like I've
never seen hockey get embraced," he said. "Even
though they weren't rooting for us, just the enthusiasm
they had, always wishing us good luck, it was just
unbelievable. It was a great place to have it."
This was Nystrom and Helminen's first trip to Nova
Scotia, but their second to the World Juniors. Last year
in the Czech Republic, they played for a United States
team that placed fifth.-
This year's squad reached the bronze medal game
before falling to Finland, 3-2, and Helminen said one

Naweed Sikora can be reached at
nsikora@umich.edu.

0

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