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March 23, 2004 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-23

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I

0

Tuesday
March 23, 2004
sports.michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

P ORTS

10

'Homa sweet home

Michigan
slows pesky
Lavender,
Sooners
By Bob Hunt
Daily Sports Writer
Despite his 5-foot-7 frame, Oklahoma
guard Drew Lavender has
ran around and through
opposing defenses all
season, leading the Soon-
ers in scoring and assists.
But last night, the fresh-
man just stood still.
The catalyst of the Sooner offense could
not get anything going, and his team
struggled as a result. Lavender spent pos-
session after possession standing in the
backcourt as the shot clock ran down
inside 10 seconds, forcing Oklahoma to
take numerous errant shots.
"I think one of the keys for us was try-
ing to contain that young man," Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker said. "He's quick,
he's tough, and you don't want to give him
lanes to the basket. I thought our length at
times was a real distraction for him, not
just the length on him, but our length on
the wings."
Lavender spent much of the Big XII sea-
son scoring with his high-arcing shot, but
he drove and scored just once last night.
The Columbus native finished a putrid 1-
for-9 from the field and scored just two
points. Fellow guards Jason Detrick and
Lawrence McKenzie shot 3-for-10 and 3-
for-8, respectively. The Sooners shot just
35.8 percent for the game compared with
their season average of 41 percent.
"I think we really buckled down in the
second half, getting stops, getting
rebounds, and then converting on the
offensive end with our free throws," fresh-.
man guard Dion Harris said.
SCRAP-HAPPY: Although Michigan's
defense was excellent in preventing Okla-
homa from creating off the ball, the same
could not be said for Michigan's ability to
keep Oklahoma off the glass. The Wolver-
ines gave up nine offensive rebounds
despite having a superior height advan-

NIT:

the place to be? For

Wolverines, that's

the case

it's time to face up to facts - Michigan is
better off playing in the NIT. I know, I
know. I never bought that argument, either.
In my mind, that
thinking was
always just a way
for teams that had
to play in the NIT
feel better.
There's no
doubt that a trip to C HRIS
the NCAA Tour-
nament could have BURKE
been nice. Sneak- Goin' to Work
ing into March
Madness as a No. 12 or No. 13 seed would
have been thrilling for a program that's on the
upswing - but it also would have most likely
meant the Wolverines' season would have
ended last Thursday or Friday after a first-
round exit.
Instead, the Wolverines keep playing. And,
despite the fact that no one would ever con-
fuse the NCAA Tournament with the NIT, it's
hard to discount how valuable a couple of
postseason wins could be for a program
that's been longing for that type of success
for so long.
"I'm hoping it's going to do a world of won-
ders for our team and our kids," Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker said. "I'm sure that it
will. Having been there myself and been a part
of it as a player and as a coach, you can't even
imagine the confidence that this program and
this team is going to feel in the months and
years to come."
Let's also not ignore what these wins mean
for this team and this program right now. Last
night's 63-52 victory gave Michigan victory
No. 20 - the first time the Wolverines have
reached that number since the 1997-98 season,
and Michigan forfeited those 25 wins away
thanks to self-imposed sanctions.
"I'm very pleased for our team to get our
20th win," Amaker said. "I said before that
there are not many college basketball teams
that are still practicing right now and have the
chance to play - we are fortunate to be one of
those teams."
This little NIT run has also meant two (three
come tomorrow) nationally televised games in
front of raucous home crowds. Michigan's also
three wins away from hanging the first legiti-
mate banner in Crisler Arena's rafters since the
1989 National Championship.
You can't overlook the impact things like
those can have on this program. With every
victory - and especially every postseason vic-

tory - Michigan lands, the Wolverines shove
the program's past embarrassment further away.
And you can already see this team taking
steps forward in the present. The biggest knock
on Michigan this year was that it didn't have
that many quality wins, and that the Wolverines
couldn't finish games down the stretch.
Well, in a week, Michigan has recorded two
quality wins, and done so while doing the little
things that are necessary late in close contests.
"We thought we could use this tournament as
a springboard for next year," sophomore center
Chris Hunter said. "We've got a group of
young guys playing key minutes - I think
we're getting better, we're playing more
mature."
Don't forget, either, that Michigan hasn't
played in a postseason game since losing to
Notre Dame in the first round of the 2000 NIT.
That means that the total number of players on
this year's roster that have played in the post-
season is zero.
That number isn't very conducive to making
a huge NCAA Tournament run. But, next year,
Michigan will have at least three NIT games
(and possibly an NIT title) to fall back on. For-
get that the Wolverines got to play in Crisler.
Forget that it's not the NCAA Tournament.
Regardless of any outside factors, the Wolver-
ines will learn more from continuing to play in
the NIT than they would have from a humbling
first-round NCAA Tournament loss to a
Kansas or Maryland.
"Playing in the postseason this year will help
us out in the future," sophomore forward Gra-
ham Brown said. "We're going to have some
confidence knowing that we won a couple of
games in the postseason this year."
It's not a cop-out, though I know it sounds
like it. The Wolverines claimed that they were
honored to be back in the postseason, that they
were excited and ready. They claimed that they
would take full advantage of the trip to the
postseason and that the NIT could be just as
valuable as an NCAA Tournament berth - no
one bought a word.
But with two wins in the books and a third
postseason home game coming tomorrow, the
Wolverines are turning people into believers.
And if the experience now translates into a
quick start and an NCAA Tournament spot for
Michigan next year, then it will be hard to
argue with the results.

94

RYAN WEINER/Daily
Michigan sophomore Daniel Horton drives past Oklahoma's Lawrence McKenzie during last
night's 63-52 win. Horton scored 12 points and dished five assists in Michigan's win.

tage.
"They're a scrappy team, and they hit
the glass hard," sophomore center Chris
Hunter said. "They're big, strong, athletic
guys that can jump, and it's tough to keep
them off the glass."
The Sooners scored 10 points off offen-
sive rebounds, eight of which came via
freshman forward Brandon Foust. Foust
was rarely used during the regular season,
but has shined since Oklahoma lost two of
its dominant post players in Kevin Book-
out and Jabahri Brown. Foust tipped the
ball in off a missed shot on two consecu-
tive possessions early in the second half to
give Oklahoma a 34-32 lead after being
down seven just minutes earlier.
"I don't think we did as good a job
keeping them off the glass, but that's how
they play," sophomore guard Daniel Hor-
ton said. "I think our first-shot defense is
pretty good. The problem comes in when
we have to box out and get rebounds."

No LuAu, No PROBLEM: After the
announcement following last night's game
that Michigan would be hosting its third
round NIT game, all possibility that
Michigan would be making an unexpected
trip to Hawaii went by the wayside. The
Warriors played at home last night against
Nebraska in front of a sellout crowd, but
will have to travel to Ann Arbor. The
missed opportunity to get some-sun does-
n't bother the Wolverines.
"Classes are too hard," Horton said.
"There's a lot of demanded of us in the
classroom, so I was hoping that we would
not have to travel to Hawaii."
NOTES: Student tickets will still be $5
for Michigan's game tomorrow. The
Michigan Athletic Department is keeping
the Ticket Office on State Street open
from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. today in order
to sell as many tickets as possible ...
Michigan is 9-0 in NIT games at Crisler
Arena.

Chris Burke can be reached at
chrisbur@umich.edu

SOONERS
Continued from Page 1
into tough shots late in the shot
clock on most of their possessions
in the game's final stretch.
"We wanted to be solid on
defense, hold them to one shot and
keep them off the glass," Horton
said. "I don't think we did as good a

job as we should've keeping them
off the glass, but I think our first-
shot defense was pretty good."
Harris led the Wolverines with 17
points, but Michigan got its biggest
contributions from two of its front-
court players coming off of the
bench.
Sophomore Chris Hunter and
freshman Brent Petway combined

Er'

for 18 points and 10 rebounds, con-
necting on a combined 8-for-9 from
the charity stripe.
"I thought Chris Hunter's minutes
- his effort in free-throw shooting
and rebounding the ball - he's
been a big difference for our team
since he's been back and healthy,"
Amaker said.
In the first half, Michigan held
Oklahoma without a field goal for
nearly eight minutes and opened up
a 10-point lead with just under two
minutes left to play.
But the Sooners rallied back
behind a 3-pointer by guard Jason
Detrick and a follow-up dunk by
forward Brandon Foust, pulling
within five heading into the locker-
room.
Oklahoma came out gunning in
the second half, going on a 9-2 run
over the first four minutes, high-

lighted by two Foust tip-ins. The
Sooners took a 34-32 lead with
16:14 to play in the game, before
Michigan reclaimed the lead for
good with just under 15 to play.
"I think they were just outplaying
us," Harris said. "They were play-
ing harder than us when they went
on that run. Obviously we made
some turnovers. We weren't taking
care of the ball as much."
Yesterday's win gave Michigan its
first 20-win season since the 1997-
98 campaign, when it went 25-9
and was eliminated in the first
round of the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan will next face Hawaii
tomorrow at 9 p.m. at Crisler
Arena. Tickets for tomorrow's NIT
quarterfinal game went on sale last
night at about 11:30 p.m. and will
continue to be sold throughout
today.

By Eric Ambinder
Daily Sports Writer

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If the Michigan men's tennis
team looked into a mirror, it may
-appear as if rival Notre Dame was
staring right back at it.
Both teams have played a very
tough nonconference schedule,
have blown leads to difficult oppo-
nents, have excelled in doubles and
have three talented freshmen who
play integral roles in singles play.
Today, No. 48 Michi-
gan and No. 35 Notre -
Dame won't see a To
reflection of each other N
in the mirror, but No. 35 N
across the net at the No.48
Varsity Tennis Center. Tune
As if the on-court Varsity Te
similarities weren't -
sufficient enough to
heighten competitive juices for the
Wolverines, it is, after all, Notre
Dame.
"(Michigan) could play Notre
Dame in tiddlywinks and there'd be
a natural rivalry," Michigan coach
Mark Mees said.
The home team has won the past
six decisions dating back to 1998,
but historical home-court advan-
tage becomes less significant when
both teams have three starting
freshmen who have proven success-
ful. Notre Dame's Stephen Bass,
Barry King and Ryan Keckley are a
combined 24-14 this season in dual
match play. Their Michigan coun-
terparts, freshmen Brian Hung,
Ryan Heller and Steve Peretz, are
7d7is ra

DAY
otre Dame at
Michigan
: 4p.m.
.nnis Center

The Fighting Irish
have posted a 5-2 mark
against Big Ten oppo-
nents this season, but
Mees doesn't believe he
will be able to gauge
Michigan's success dur-
ing the upcoming Big
Ten season by what
unfolds on the court

led 3-1 before dropping three suc-
cessive singles matches, two of
which went to a decisive third set.
Michigan (8-1) has also shown
signs of weakness during crunch
time. In their only loss of the sea-
son, the Wolverines dropped a 4-3
decision to No. 39 Florida State.
Michigan had a match point in No.
2 doubles against the Seminoles,
but lost the point and eventually the
match - the ultimate difference-
maker in the contest.

today.
"I think a lot of it has to do with
pair-ups," Mees said. "(Notre
Dame's) just a very good team.
Regardless of what happens
(today), we'll get ready for the two
Big Ten matches this weekend on
the road."
In an attempt to get healthy for
the beginning of the Big Ten sea-
son, senior Michael Rubin may not
play at his usual No. 1 singles posi-
tion because of a rib injury. His
status will be a game-time deci-
sion. Rubin saw limited action two
weeks ago at Ball State, playing at
No. 2 doubles.
Back in September, Rubin
defeated Notre Dame's No. 1 sin-
tle nlverLic Hv~~adockr at the

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