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February 18, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-02-18

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Wednesday.
February 18, 2004
sports.michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

SPORTS

9

Back at home, Blue
looks to snap skid

It's true: Newest Bluenatic
hooked on women's hoops

By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Editor
Much has been made of the Michi-
gan basketball team's struggles away
from home this season.

But the road
are nothing
compared to
what Penn
State has
suffered
through.
Over the last
three years,
the Nittany
Lions have
bumbled
their way to

woes of the Wolverines
TONIG T
Thue- 8:00.pa ~
Crisler Arenawa
UP^N

20 consecutive road losses.
Tonight, Michigan (4-6 Big Ten, 13-8
overall) would love nothing more than
to push that number to 21. With losses
in six of its last nine games, Michigan
finds itself on the verge of falling com-
pletely out of NCAA Tournament con-
sideration, making its game against
Penn State (3-7, 9-12) - and likely
every game the rest of the season - a
must-win situation.
"Our goals really have stayed the
same," Michigan forward J.C. Mathis
said. "We haven't lost hope of going to
the NCAA Tournament. But our main
goal is just winning this next game'."
Those goals have been tested as the
Wolverines, once expected to challenge
for the Big Ten title, have yet to come
close to meeting expectations.
Despite the Wolverines' woes, Michi-
gan coach Tommy Amaker refuses to
chalk the year up as a disappointment.
"We're in a mode of improving,"
Amaker said. "I don't think we're
regressing - I don't believe that. A lot
of times, this time of the year, you're
fighting through things."
If Michigan looks to "fight through"
its current predicament and get back on
track, then there's probably no team that
the Wolverines would rather see than
Penn State.

Michigan already took advantage of
one meeting with the Nittany Lions.
That game, the Wolverines' lone Big
Ten road victory this season, ended a
three-game losing streak that Michigan
was mired in.
Now, after losses at Iowa and last-
place Minnesota, the Wolverines are
again in desperate need of a victory,
something they have gotten in their last
five matchups against Penn State.
Tonight's game also marks the start
of a four-game homestand for Michi-
gan that will also see Wisconsin,
Michigan State and Ohio State travel to
Crisler Arena.
"If we win our next four games, it
will obviously be because we're shoot-
ing the ball better and not turning the
ball over as much;" Mathis said. "Four
wins would mean we've turned things
around. We can't play the way we've
played and beat some of the teams we
have at home"
In its 69-59 victory over Penn State
on Jan. 24, Michigan played the type of
game it has been striving for all season.
The Wolverines turned the ball over just
nine times in that game, and dished out
14 assists, playing solid defense and cre-
ating multiple transition opportunities.
Michigan also managed to keep Penn
State's leading scorer, forward Jan
Jagla, out of sync for much of the
game's 40 minutes. Jagla finished with
13 points, but the Wolverines battered
and bruised him, and the junior chucked
up 13 missed shots as well.
History would indicate that Jagla will
fall short of his 14.3 points per game
average again tonight. In his first two
appearances at Crisler Arena, Jagla has
averaged just four points a game, as he
has been unable to bang with the physi-
cal Wolverines.
Jagla does have some offensive help
from guard Marlon Smith, who joins
Jagla as the only Nittany Lions who
average double digits in points.
Penn State has not won in Ann Arbor
since the 1998-99 season, when the Nit-
tany Lions snuck out a 78-72 victory.

COURTNEY LEWIS
Full Court Press
'll admit it; it was mostly the free T-
shirt. In three-and-a half years at
Michigan, I'd never been to a
women's basketball game. Never seri-
ously considered going to one. But,
newly relieved of my editor duties at
the Daily, I didn't have anywhere else
to be. And with a second-semester
senior's schedule, I certainly didn't
have any homework to do. Plus, I had
heard that the women's basketball fan
group, the Bluenatics, gave away shirts
to any students who went to a game.
There's not much I won't do for a
free T-shirt.
So I made the drastic decision to go
to the Feb. 5 Michigan-Purdue game.
This didn't mean that I would like it, or
even be all that interested.
You see, I have a long history of not
giving diddly-squat about women's bas-
ketball. This makes no sense at all,
since not only do I love the game, but I
also played in high school and resented
the fact that the boys' team got more
attention - and more funding - than
my team. I'm all about female athletes
getting fair treatment.
But for whatever reason, when it
comes to other girls playing basketball,
I just don't care. I've never been to a
WNBA game - I've never even
watched a whole game on television.
And, up until that night two weeks ago,
I'd paid zero attention to the women's
team here, beyond the stories I had to
read for the Daily. In fact, I kept read-
ing about things the program was doing
to try to draw more fans, and ... well ...
I sort of rolled my eyes and smirked.
They had to beg for fans? Come on.
So you could say that finally going
to a game was a major step forward for

me. I would've said it was just a way to
cure my boredom - and get a T-shirt.
But then, something strange happened.
I actually ... liked it.
This is hard for me to come to terms
with - I'm still very confused - but
somehow, I turned in to a women's bas-
ketball fan. I've been to every home
game since.
The games were as much fun - if
not (GASP!) more - than the men's
games. Students get in free, which is a
major plus. Even though I'm a new-
comer, I get to trade in my upper-deck
view at men's games for bleacher seats,
just feet from the team.
And even though there aren't that
many of them - er, us - the Bluenatics
can still make an impact. Yes, when we
tried to start the "Go! Blue!" call-and-
response chant at the Purdue game, we
had to send someone across the arena to
answer us, since the non-student fans just
returned our chant of "Go!" with blank
stares. But still, the opposing team can
be rattled by our insults, and the Michi-
gan team appreciates us.
As far as on the court, it's not that
much different from the men's game.
I even got to watch Michigan blow a
17-point first-half lead and lose by
five to Michigan State last week.
Sound familiar?
But seriously. Even though Michigan
has lost two of the three games I've
been to, there have been plenty of fun
things to watch: Tabitha Pool draining
three's in a rivalry game and freshman
Kelly Helvey getting her first career
starts and turning into Michigan's
sparkplug, to name a few.
Now, with the season winding down,
I'm almost wishing I had discovered
earlier that women's basketball is pretty
cool, after all.
Besides, at the last game, I caught
(read: yanked out of someone's hand)
one of those shirts that the cheerleaders
toss into the crowd during timeouts.
That's two free T-shirts.
Courtney Lewis can be reached at
cmlewis@umich.edu.

Freshman Dion Harris and the Wolverines hope to play as well as they did when
they faced the Nittany Lions on Jan. 24, when Michigan won easily 69-59.

For Burlin, road traveled hardly easy

LIVJs

NOTES

By Josh Holman
Daily Sports Writer

It's hard to believe, but the Michigan women's basketball
team's most experienced player is only a sophomore. And
that's not even the most interesting fact about her.
Mie Burlin - who celebrated her 24th birthday yester-
day - has traveled a long, winding road to get where she
is today. Sure, every player has her very own tale of perse-
verance and toil, but Burlin's journey was truly long -
about 4,107 miles, to be exact.
But somehow, Burlin managed to find her way from
Skovlunde, Denmark, to Ann Arbor just to play basketball.
"I knew Anne Thorius, who played here, and I know she
had a great experience," Burlin said. "And I knew one of the
former coaches here (Eileen Shea-Hilliard) because she
used to play in Denmark."
Shea-Hilliard - now the head coach at Oakland Univer-
sity - played professionally in Europe and coached in Den-
mark. When former Michigan coach Sue Guevara took the
reins at Michigan, Shea-Hilliard came on as an assistant and
was instrumental in the recruitment of Thorius and Burlin,
both members of the Danish National Team.
Burlin certainly had the connections to get to Michigan,
but it wasn't so simple. Her first obstacle came three years
ago when the NCAA declared her academically ineligible
prior to the 2001-2002 season.
"The school systems are so different that, even though I
went through four years of business school before I came
here, I was 75 percent of one credit short," Burlin said. "It
was a biology credit. It was ridiculous. So I had to stay
home and take a biology class for a whole year."
The confusion over three-fourths of a credit actually set
back Michigan's program. Guevara recruited Burlin as a
point guard, and expected her to fill the void that Thorius
left when she graduated. When Burlin was forced to stay
that extra year in Denmark, Guevara was left without a true

point guard.
"I had just graduated from business school and I knew
that I wanted to go," Burlin said. "I was really disappointed
but I knew that I just had to take that class and I would be
going the next year. But on top of that, I lost a year of eligi-
bility so that was hard."
When Burlin did arrive, she was part of a point-guard-by-
committee that Guevara had compiled to fill the team's glar-
ing void. She split time controlling the point with
then-junior Sierra Hauser-Price and then-freshmen Lauren
Andrews and Rachel Carney.
But that was last year, and Burlin is the only remnant of
Michigan's old Danish pipeline. Thorius has long since
graduated after a successful stint, and Shea-Hilliard left
Michigan last year to take the head coaching job at Oakland.
In her first year as the Wolverines' coach, Cheryl Bur-
nett has shaken up the program, and Burlin has felt the
impact. Burnett moved Burlin from a point guard to a
shooting guard this season, hoping to capitalize on
Burlin's shooting ability - she's fourth on the team in 3-
pointers made. It's not an easy transition for any point
guard to make.
"I've played point guard for 10, 12 years," Burlin said.
"Obviously that's my position and that's where I feel com-
fortable. I don't mind playing the two guard at all, but it did
take me a while to get used to not getting the ball and bring-
ing it up the floor."
So now, at the ripe age of 24, three years after taking a
troublesome biology class and a year into a fresh new
regime at Michigan, Burlin is still in Ann Arbor. It may not
have been what she expected when she left Denmark, but it's
still a chance to play basketball.
"Obviously when you get new coaches, some things will
change, and that's just the way it is," Burlin said. "I only
have one year left, since I lost that year of eligibility, so I'm
going to get the most out of it and see what the future
brings."

Olin leads Blue to
third-place finish
In the Miccosukee Championship
in Miami, the Michigan women's golf
team finished third out of 13 teams.
Its score of 943 in the 54-hole tourna-
ment was seven strokes behind cham-
pion Southern Methodist.
Three Wolverines - junior Laura
Olin, freshman Ali Stinson and sopho-
more Amy Schmucker - had strong
showings and finished in the top 15.
Olin, who finished fifth, lead
Michigan for the fifth consecutive
tournament with a 230 total.
"It felt really good to get back into
the competitive mode," Olin said. "It
is such a different feeling - grinding
out your shots, playing for Michigan,
playing alongside your teammates and
really just hitting from the turf."
Michigan coach Kathy Teichert was
pleased with the results.
"You always wonder how you go
from indoors and not playing to actu-
ally hitting a golf course and facing
some competition," Teichert said. "I
thought we handled all of our obsta-
cles very well. Sure, there were some
shots left out there, but for the most
part I was pleased with the way we
performed. It was great to see how
everyone responded."
The Wolverines travel to Puerto
Rico Feb. 22-24 for the Lady Puerto
Rico Classic. Ten top 25 programs
will compete in the tournament.

DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily
Mie Burlin had to wait an extra year before coming to Michigan due to missing just
one biology class, even though she had finished four years of business school.

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