The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 15, 2004 - 5B
Talkin' the talk
"That's not our mentality - to go quit and
not play. If there's games, Michigan wants
to win those games."
- Michigan co-captain Colin Dill on the prospect of playing
in the NIT
Players of the game
The sophomore used his quickness to
create points in transition. Brown was
the game's top scorer with 21 points,
and added five assists.
Horton sparked Michigan's second-
half rally. He led the Wolverines
with a team-high 16 points to go
with five assists and six rebounds.
Injury forces Abram to sit
By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Editor
INDIANAPOLIS - For the second straight year, Michi-
gan lost a Big Ten Tournament game that the Wolverines
felt they could have won.
For the second straight year, the Wolverines were also left
to wonder what might have been had they been at full
Last season, on the eve of Michigan's quarterfinal
matchup with Indiana, guard Daniel Horton suffered a
sprained ankle in practice. He played against the
Hoosiers but was far from 100-percent, and Indiana
pulled out a win.
On Saturday, just hours before Michigan's critical semifi-
nal contest with Illinois, the Wolverines learned they would
be without the services of sophomore Lester Abram.
Abram hurt his left - and shooting - shoulder on a
freak play with 13:16 left in Michigan's victory over Iowa
on Friday. After having his shot blocked by Iowa's Erik
Hansen, Abram turned and tried to swat the ball from
Hansen's grip. But when he made contact with the ball, his
shoulder briefly popped out of place, sending Abram to the
ground in agony.
He would return to the lineup just a few minutes later and
go 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the final minutes as
Michigan put the Hawkeyes away.
But on Saturday, Abram reinjured the shoulder during a
morning shoot-around, forcing the Wolverines to play with-
out one of their top scorers.
"I couldn't lift my arm," Abram said. "I tried to ease the
pain a little bit (with a shot an hour before the game) - it
would be different if it was my right arm. I couldn't grab
rebounds, put my arms up to play defense or shoot the ball."
Prior to Michigan's final regular season game at North-
western on March 6, Abram pulled himself from the start-
ing lineup in an effort to build freshman Dion Harris's con-
fidence - a move that sparked Harris to a solid showing at
Northwestern and a career-high 23 points in the Big Ten
Tournament quarterfinals against Iowa.
But Abram, off the bench or as a starter, is one of the
Wolverines' top offensive options. His 13 points per game
make him Michigan's leading scorer, and at 41 percent from
behind the arc and 86 percent at the free throw, Abram is
one of the Big Ten's best pure shooters.
"It hurt us," said Horton of Abram's absence. "He's been
our leading scorer the whole year. He's been a big contribu-
tor for this team rebounding and playing defense, so it hurt."
Center Chris Hunter was also quick to point out how
much Abram's injury hindered the Wolverines.
"That's a tough loss," Hunter said. "That's 13, 14 points a
game and energy and defense off the bench."
Abram's absence forced Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
to give more playing time to sophomore Sherrod Harrell -
who has been used in a limited role as a defensive stopper
this year. Harrell finished the game with 13 minutes, grab-
bing three rebounds.
Horton and Harris were also forced to stay on the court
longer - which is not an ideal situation when playing two
games within 24 hours. The two guards posted 38 and 34
minutes, respectively, while combining for 27 points against
"Lester's a huge part of this team," Harrell said. "We
knew a couple of guys would have to step up and play big
to compensate - it was just being ready."
In spite of the solid efforts from those forced to pick up
the slack, there was no question that Abram, who is sched-
uled to have an MRI on his shoulder, was sorely missed.
The look on Abram's face all afternoon showed that he
knew his presence could have provided a huge boost.
"Of course (it was difficult)," Abram said. "I felt like I
could be out there helping the team."
FG FT REB
MIN M-A M-A 0-T A F PTS
35 7-13 0-0 0-5 3 2 15
16 0-2 0-0 2-4 0 3 0
34 5-8 0-0 6-12 1 0 10
38 6-16 0-0 1-6 5 0 16
34 4-14 2-2 1-1 2 4 11
13 0-1 0-0 0-3 0 2 0
7 0-0 0-0 1-1 00 2
23 1-2 3-4 2-3 0 3 6
200 24-57 5614.391114 60
FG%: .421. FT%: .833. 3-point FG: .412, 7-17
(Horton 4-7, Robinson 1-2, Harris 1-6, Hunter
1-1, Harrell 0-1). Blocks: 5 (Sims 4, Hunter).
Steals: 2 (Sims, Harrell). Turnovers: 15
(Sims 4, Horton 4, Team 3, Robinson 2,
Brown, Harris). Technical fouls: Team.
FG FT REB
MIN M-A M-A 0-T A F PTS
Head 29 4-8 2-2 1-4 3 0 12
Augustine 36 7-12 1-1 5-8 4 3 15
Smith 26 2-8 1-2 1-5 2 1 5
Williams 36 3-11 0-3 0-2 7 0 7
Brown 32 6-11 7-7 1-2 5 3 21
Spears 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0'
Howard 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0+
McBride 20 2-3 2-2 1-1 1 1 8
Nkembi 1 3-7 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
carter 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Randle 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Ingram 14 3-7 0-0 1-5 0 2 6
Totals 200 27-6013-1710-292210 74
FG%: .469. FT%: .765. 3-point FG: .333, 7-
21 (Brown 2-6, Head 2-5, McBride 2-3,
Williams 1-5, Smith 0-2). Blocks: 2 (Augus-
tine, Randle). Steals: 7 (Brown 3, Head 2,
Smith, Williams). Turnovers:6 (Team 3,
Smith 2, Head). Technical fouls: none.
Michigan sophomore Lester Abram drives to the rim against Iowa. The wing injured
his shoulder in Friday's contest and wasn't able to play against Illinois on Saturday.
Illinois pressure leads to 'M' mistakes
31 - 60
37 - 74
By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS - Playing against a fast-
breaking Illinois team, Michigan knew going
into Saturday's game that it
had to hold onto the ball if it
was going to have a chance.
The plan lasted for two pos-
The Fighting Illini came
out pressuring defensively,
and the Wolverines could not withstand the
heat. After two decent offensive possessions,
Michigan turned the ball over on four of its
next five times down the floor. Those
turnovers led to seven Illinois points, as the
Illini jumped out to a quick 13-5 lead before
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker called a
The Wolverines never completely recovered.
"There were just a few plays which didn't
go our way," Michigan sophomore guard
Daniel Horton said. "I got double-teamed
once, and tried to throw the ball off the guy
out of bounds to save a- timeout and it hit him
and bounced back in bounds. We didn't get
back in transition a couple times and they
leaked out and got easy baskets."
When Illinois coach Bruce Weber replaced
current Kansas coach Bill Self as the Illini
headman during the off-season, he instituted a
aily pressure defense. The Fighting Illini guards
used that system and met their Michigan
counterparts at halfcourt, keeping the Wolver-
drew contact from Harris to draw a free throw, mak-
ing it an eight-point game again.
With the contest slipping away, center Court-
ney Sims was called for a technical foul for hang-
ing on the rim, as he was trying to follow up a
missed layup by Horton. Instead of getting the
Wolverines within seven, the play led to an Illi-
nois free throw and a 3-pointer by Luther Head
on the ensuing possession, giving the Fighting
Illini a 64-51 edge.
Horton led the Wolverines with 16 points on Sat-
ines out of a rhythm. Illinois forced 15 Michi-
gan turnovers resulting in 22 Fighting Illini
points. Illinois also did a great job holding
onto the ball against a Michigan team that led
the Big Ten in steals this season. Discrediting
two late turnovers as the clock was running
out, Illinois turned the ball over just four times
resulting in four Michigan points.
The catalyst for the Illinois onslaught was
sophomore guard Dee Brown. The former
McDonald's All-American scored a 3-pointer
and a quick lay-up during the initial Illinois
run, making his mark by pressuring in the
backcourt on defense and then getting behind
the opposing defense on the fast break.
"One thing you have to be aware of when
you play Illinois, anytime you put a shot up,
Dee Brown is out of there," Horton said. "He's
not going to get a rebound, so he looks to get
out in transition."
HARRIS SHINES: On Thursday night before
Michigan's quarterfinal game against Iowa,
freshman Amadou Ba told freshman guard
Dion Harris that someday Harris was going to
shoot the ball real well, and when that day
came, he'd feel sorry for the other team.
That day was Friday.
Harris scored a career-high 23 points on
Thursday against Iowa while playing one of
the best games of his season. After the
Wolverines missed their first eight 3-pointers
and had a sluggish offensive start, Harris ignit-
ed Michigan from beyond the arc by hitting
six consecutive 3-pointers. Harris finished 8-
for-11 from the field.
urday. The sophomore found his rhythm
downtown, shooting 4-of-7 from behind the
Illinois' Brown led all scorers with 21 pointsc
Michigan hasn't played in the postseason sin
1999-00 season, when the team dropped a 10
decision to Notre Dame in the NIT.
"I think any type of postseason symbolizes su
for your team," Michigan's Bernard Robinson
"And I think if you're able to play in the NIT,
also an honor."
Freshman guard Dion Harris passes the ball out of the
Illinois double team on Saturday.
Continued from Page 1B
half. Horton stroked a pair of threes to help cut the
score to 39-37. But that was as close as it would get.
"We were never able to gain the lead in the
ballgame," Amaker said. "I thought that was a big
With 13 minutes left, Williams bounced the ball to
Brown on a 3-on-2, with Horton and freshman Dion
Harris back on defense. Brown laid the ball in and
"I think the team wants me to shoot when
I'm open, and I was ready to shoot, and I
knocked the shots down," Harris said.
Although Harris shot 4-for-11 and made
just one 3-pointer against Illinois, he played as
confident as he has all season. Both Harris
and Horton have shown improvement in that
area and, with the exception of the beginning
of the Iowa game, have settled for fewer poor
shots on the outside.
"I think we have been more aggressive these
last few games," Horton said. "We knew we
had to be more aggressive as a team, and with
the ball being in our hands the majority of the
time, it just happened to fall that way."
Harris failed to contribute significantly dur-
ing the latter half of the conference season, but
shined last week against Northwestern after
sophomore Lester Abram gave Harris his
starting spot. Harris has started ever since.
"I think it's obvious that it's been the shot in
the arm for our team," Amaker said.
NOTES: Illinois was just the second No. 1
seed to advance to the Big Ten Tournament
championship game. Michigan State was
the last to do so when it won the tourna-
ment in 1999 ... Discounting forfeited
games from 1998 and 1999, Michigan has
won just two Big Ten Tournament games.
Michigan won the inaugural tournament in
1998 ... With four blocks against Illinois,
Courtney Sims finished with 61 blocks and
became the first freshman to lead the con-
ference in blocks since Penn State's Calvin
Booth did so iii 1996.
on the Continued from Page 1B
I know the Illini are good, but come
ce the on. It shouldn't have taken a 10-minute-
-point long slap in the face before the Wolver-
ines turned it up to full throttle.
ccess The Wolverines have missed other
said. types of opportunities as well, failing to
that's exploit favorable matchups game after
game. Against Illinois, freshman Court-
ney Sims played well, collecting 10
points and 12 boards. If he had gotten
the ball anywhere near as many times
as he should have, the freshman
would've dropped in 20 and Michigan
might be dancing.
But as much as I hate to admit it,
looking forward and not backward, the
situation that sits in front on the
Wolverines isn't all bad news.
Playing in the NIT is a good step for
the program. Despite popular opinion,
the NIT does count for something. As a
student and Michigan fan, it sucks to
watch this team - a team with so
much untapped potential - head into
the NIT. But its important to keep in
mind that this year is one small part of
a larger picture. This is just the 2003-04
season, and Michigan still has years
and years of opportunities ahead of it.
Now the team is headed in the right
direction, away from the train wreck
that was the Ed Martin scandal.
So for now, Michigan needs to let
this season serve as a reminder for the
years to come: You need to take care of
your own business to play in the NCAA
Tournament. This year, the Wolverines
left too much of their fate up to out-
siders --other teams and selection
FG FT REB
MIN M-A M-A 0-T A F PTS'
31 2-8 5-6 0-8104 9
17 0-4 1-2 1-2 1 3 1
21 0-1 1-2 3-7 0 2 1.
36 5-13 3-4 0-5 2 3 14
27 8-11 1-2 1-3 0 3 23
28 4-10 9-9 2-6 0 3 19
1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
19 1-2 1-2 0-2 0 1 3
20 1-2 7-8 1-4 1 3 9
200 21-51283510-391422 79
FG%: .412. FT%: .800. 3-point FG: 9-22, .409
(Harris 6-8, Abram 2-5, Horton 1-6, Hunter 0-1,
Robinson 0-1, Sims 0-1). Blocks: 2 (Sims 2).
Steals: 7 (Hunter 3, Abram, Harris, Petway,
Robinson). Turnovers: 16 (Horton 5, Robin-
son 3, Petway 2, Harris 2, Brown, Hunter,
Sims, Team). Technical fouls: none.
At: Conseco Fieldhouse
200 26-58112111-351525 70
FG%: .448. FM% .524. 3-point FG: 7-23,
.304 (Boyd 3-9, Horner 2-8, Brunner 1-3,
Pierce 1-3). Blocks: 7 (Brunner 4, Hansen 2,
Worley). Steals: 5 (Brunner 2, Horner 2,
Boyd). Tumovers:16 (Pierce 6, Worley 4,
Boyd 2, Brunner 2, Hansen, Horner. Technical
Iowa........ ..... 25
47 - 79
45 - 70
At: Conseco Fieldhouse
Missouri's Thomas Gardner.
The Wolverines will welcome Mis-
souri to Crisler Arena on Tuesday
night in the first round of the NIT.
The Tigers are coached by Quin
Snvder a former Duke nIaver and