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January 08, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-01-08

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'I

Thu ivieh.itan LOil hiy IIIatvUdy, i ni Q0, LUV' OA

i na ivurn gan any --- sa I .ay, .anua y s, U4 f - -A
Sizzling first half encouraging sign for Big Ten d,

By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
After shooting 6-for-19 from the free-
throw line Saturday against Fairfield and 9-
for-27 from the field in the second half
against Boston University Dec. 30, not
many people saw Michigan's incredible
shooting performance in last night's 78-54
win over Northwestern coming.
Lester Abram wasn't one of them. En
route to a career-high 27-point performance,
the sophomore guard missed just once the
entire evening. Abram would have finished
with a perfect game if he had not thrown up
a 3-pointer right before he was taken out of
the game with less than 90 seconds to go.
Abram hit his first seven field goals -
three of them from behind the arc - and all
of his 10 free throws. But Abram wasn't
surprised by his hot streak.
"The team just kept feeding me the ball
on open spots on the floor, and my coaches
expect me to (knock) those shots down,"
Abram said.
Abram and the Wolverines opened their

Big Ten season shooting better than they
have all season. Michigan was on fire from
the opening tip as it shot 16-for-21 from the
field in the first half and finished with a
sparkling 28-for-43 evening. The clinic
being put on was a vast change from when
Boston University packed in a 2-3 zone and
Michigan failed to garner any rhythm offen-
sively.
"Our players being ready to shoot was
one of our points of emphasis because we
have been slumping in man-to-man or even
in zone," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
said. "We need to be able to make some
shots and take some shots with confidence.
We have good shooters. We just haven't
shown it in the previous games."
The Wolverines' ability to put the ball in
the basket was more astonishing from the
free-throw line. Michigan hit every shot
from the charity stripe until sophomore
guard Daniel Horton missed with 8:40
remaining. The Wolverines finished 17-for-
19, a season-high 89.5 percentage.
"I thought it was a great sign for us to
shoot free throws the way that we did

tonight," Amaker said. "You get some confi-
dence, and your guys start off better, and it
becomes a little contagious."
Horton believes that the Wolverines' up-
and-down performances offensively have to
do with the way they play aggressive
defense.
"With our style of play, especially for the
guards where we like to pressure the ball,
it's kind of tough to shoot the ball consis-
tently," Horton said.
Horton also said that Michigan's lack of
offensive structure has nothing to do with
its inconsistency. Unlike most college
teams, the Wolverines do not consistently
run offensive sets. Instead, they rely on their
one-on-one skills to create opportunities,
more like a professional team. But Horton
defended the system.
"We take what the defense gives us," Hor-
ton said. "We look for the best shots and the
best looks inside. We play basketball the
way we've always played it."
According to Northwestern coach Bill
Carmody, the Wildcats give their opposing
offenses a lot. Last night's Big Ten opener

was no exception, and the Wolverines took
advantage.
"We have a habit of making guys shoot
the ball very well," Carmody said.
BIG TEN STANDINGS
Conference Overall
Team W L W L
Wisconsin 1 0 10 2
Michigan 1 0 10.2
Illinois 1 0 10 2
Iowa 1 0 8 3
Penn State 1 0 7 5
Michigan State 0 0 5 6
Purdue......00
Ohio State 0 1 8 4
Minnesota 0 1 7 5
Indiana 0 1 6 6
Northwestern 0 1.. .7
MICHoI 78, Northwestern 64
PENN STATE 75, Minnesota72
lowA 66, Purdue 56.
tIlinois 85, Qi STATE 63

JOEL FRIEDMAN/Daily
Michigan guard Lester Abram looks for an open man.
Last night, Abram was doing more shooting, scoring 27:

Michigan trying to
combat inconsistency

Golder seeks second
victory in Windy City

By Eric Ambinder
Daily Sports Writer

As 16th-century English wordsmith
John Heywood said, "Rome wasn't
built in one day."
Neither is a contending Big Ten
women's basketball team.
At the midway point of the season,
the Michigan lady ballers rest slightly
above .500.
Offensive productivity has been
inconsistent, and so have wins.
Jennifer Smith, Tabitha Pool and
Stephanie Gandy account for more
than 70 percent of the team's offense.
Michigan's fourth scoring option,
Niki Reams, averages just 5.9 points
per game.
"I take it as a positive in terms of
we're really trying to give a lot of
touches to who we think are potentially
our better scorers," coach Cheryl Bur-
nett said.
Michigan ranks ninth in the Big Ten
in scoring, averaging 16 points per
game less than league-leading Min-
nesota - which held the Wolverines
to a season-low 44 points on New
Year's Day.
One of the brighter spots offensively
for the Wolverines has been Smith,
who ranks third in the Big Ten in scor-
ing with 21.4 points per game. Lately,
teams have figured out how to contain
the 6-foot-4 center, holding her to an
average of 14.8 points during the past
four games.
"With Jen being so successful early,

of course, every coach and their scout-
ing report is going to do everything
they can to take that strength away
from us," Burnett said.
Smith has been a pillar of consisten-
cy for the Wolverines this season. In
her lone off-night against Xavier, team-
mate Tabitha Pool filled in adamantly
with a career-high 33 points, but no
other Wolverine scored more than
seven.
In 15 games, two or more players
have scored more than 20 points just
three times.
One reason for the team's inconsisten-
cy could be the game-by-game changes
to the starting lineup, a strategy Burnett
uses to motivate her team in practice.
Burnett has mix-matched the lineup
throughout the season, with the longest
stretch of the same five starters lasting
just three games. The players that work
the hardest defensively are most likely
the ones who start each game.
"It's not always everything that
occurs in practice even though we
want the message to be players earn
who right by how they practice," Bur-
nett said. "To me, whoever starts the
game is not a critical aspect, it's who
ends it."
While the ladies push themselves
during practice, they have been work-
ing overtime during a strenuous non-
conference season.
Michigan's strength of schedule
ranks as the 20th-toughest in the
nation, and it has played at least three
more games than any other Big Ten

By Ian Herbert
Daily Sports Writer
The Michigan men's gymnastics
team has been a dominant force in
the Big Ten for many years. Since
Kurt Golder became the head coach
seven years ago, the team has won
the Big Ten title twice and placed
second twice. The Wolverines were
also national champions in 1999.
But in that span of time, Golder has
won the Windy City Invitational
just once.
The Wolverines head to Chicago
this weekend to face off against
four other Big Ten programs with
the possibility of changing their
poor record. But Golder explained
that the team's past performances at
this invitational were not discour-
aging.
"It's a nice invitational just to get
out there and see what the competi-
tion holds and what all the teams
look like they will be able to do
this year," Golder said. "It's kind of
the get-your-feet-wet invitational. I
don't think that too many teams are
necessarily striving to win it. They
are just trying to go out there and
do a good job and see where they
stand."
In fact, not trying to win may
end up being even more productive
for the Wolverines. The only year
that Golder came home from
Chicago with a victory, 2001, was
the year that his team simplified its

strategy.
"I didn't think that we were pre-
pared enough so I had a whole
bunch of guys pull difficulty;"
Golder said. "I just wanted to come
out of it healthy. We pulled the dif-
ficulty, went in doing a lot easier
routines, and we figured that would
hurt our chance of winning that
year. And as it turns out, it
increased our hit percentage to -a
point where we ended up winning.
It's kind of a backwards approach.'
Golder said that even though he
likes the Windy City Invitational as
a warmup meet for the regular sea-
son, historically, it has had very lit-
tle bearing on how the Wolverines
fare at the end of the season. In
general, it is more important for the
individuals to do well and build
their confidence.
"This is where an individual can
set themselves up," Golder said. "If
they are going to be the NCAA
champion, they can come out of the
gates and just knock it out on their
best event, and it sets them up well.
They start the season with a real
high ranking, maybe nationally
number one. And that's got to help
them."
Golder has prioritized looking
presentable and staying healthy as
the team's goals for this weekend.
"If we can accomplish those two
things, where we finish becomes
secondary," Golder said. "Of
course, I always prefer to be first."

SHUBRA OHRR/Daily
Michigan senior Jennifer Smith battles for her shot earlier this season against
Miami. Smith is third in the Big Ten in scoring with 21.4 points per game.

team this season.
"Because of the tremendous chal-
lenge of our nonconference schedule
and that stretch when we played 10
games in 23 days, we basically were
not getting to work on what we needed
to work on (in practice), but yet we
were getting great game experience.
We kind of feel a relief now," Burnett
said. (This is) a renewal of strength and
a renewal of energy that I think is a
very big positive."
Michigan played a strong second
half in its 62-43 victory at Northwest-
ern on Sunday, executing much better

on the "intangibles" that Burnett
believes are the keys for improving
consistency. They include work ethic,
competitiveness and developing leader-
ship and confidence.
"We have been very inconsistent, but
if we can maintain consistency in those
intangible qualities, to me that makes
the difference between a winning team
and not a winning team," Burnett said.
Despite all of their efforts thus far,
the Wolverines sit at 8-7.
They stare a Big Ten season in the
face ... and perhaps a little more build-
ing than expected.

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