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September 07, 2004 - Image 60

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-07

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MMMM

4E - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2004
Wih NIT title, MicZigan
learns new lesson: victory

SPORTS

MICHIGAN 64, Purdue 63

ichigan was
ahead 41-29
in the second
half when it started.
Rutgers's Ricky
Shields hit a 3-point-
er. Then, Juel Wiggan
scored off an offen-
sive rebound. Herve
CHRIS Lamizana nailed a
BURI@ jumper, and Shields
did the same. In the
Goin' to Work blink of an eye,
APRs 2, 2004 Michigan was down
44-43 and pro-Rut-
gers Madison Square Garden was alive.
Suddenly, every Michigan fan in the place
was stuck in flashback mode, their mind wan-
dering to losses at Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa,
Minnesota and Indiana - games where the
Wolverines played so well for so long, only to
collapse in the waning moments.
But last night, something strange hap-
pened: Michigan didn't fold.
Instead, the Wolverines tightened up their
defense and rediscovered their confidence on
offense. A layup by Michigan center Courtney
Sims put the Wolverines ahead with 4:55 left,
and five minutes later, the Wolverines found
themselves with something that had too often
eluded them in regular-season road games.
Victory.
Don't kid yourself - Michigan would not
have won this game earlier this year. No way.
The NIT version of the Michigan basket-
ball team, though, was different than the regu-
lar-season version. After the win, senior
Bernard Robinson said that Michigan had
been capable of a performance like last
night's all year.
And therein lies the difference: Regular-
season Michigan couldn't get it done. Post-
season Michigan played up to its potential.
Regular-season Michigan would have
imploded had it turned the ball over four
times in four minutes as the Wolverines did
last night during Rutgers's run.
But postseason Michigan found a way to
get the job done - be it Dion Harris nailing a
3-pointer with all the Rutgers fans on their
feet, or Daniel Horton racing back on defense
after a turnover to get the Wolverines the pos-
session back with a steal.
The mantra all season for this baby-faced
Michigan squad was that it takes young teams
a long time to learn how to win.
Well, consider the lesson learned.
"As a coach and as a teacher, when you see
your players and your students get better at
the things that you've been coaching and
preaching and teaching, there's nothing bet-
ter," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
And the result of that knowledge spoke for

itself last night.
Victory.
It's a word that hasn't accompanied the end
of a Michigan season in years. But this
Michigan team may have accomplished more
in a postseason NIT than any team ever has.
In a mere two weeks, the Wolverines made
everyone forget about the Ed Martin scandal,
the seasons that ended with blowout losses in
the Big Ten Tournament and the departures
and dismissals of players from the program.
This week allowed the Michigan program
and its fans to put all that aside and focus on
- (GASP!) - basketball.
OK, it wasn't a great game. Michigan
turned the ball over 15 times, shot 35 percent
from the floor and 59 percent from the free
throw line.
The Wolverines did everything they could
in the second half to let Rutgers back into it,
and there's no question they looked more like
an NIT champion team than a team that
should challenge Duke or Connecticut.
But what the Wolverines also looked like
was a team that finally came together and
finally learned how to win.
If that was the only thing that Michigan
took from the NIT, then the postseason trip
would have been well worth it.
But, it obviously wasn't the only thing the
Wolverines managed to accomplish at Madi-
son Square Garden. In one five-game postsea-
son run, this year's Michigan team brought
respectability back to this program. The
Wolverines won a national title (I know, not
the national title) on national television in the
"world's most famous arena."
"It wasn't just for us," Horton said. "There
were a lot of guys on the team that (won the
1997 NIT title) that weren't a part of the scan-
dal, and they had to watch the banner that
they worked hard for get taken down.
"We wanted an opportunity to put another
one back up."
Thanks to the win, Michigan gets to refill
the vacancy left in Crisler's rafters after the
self-imposed sanctions.
There's no telling how big something like
that could be for this team next year and for
this program in the future.
Last night, this team - this program -
took a huge step forward. And the Wolverines
did so by putting aside not only the internal
problems this team has had in the past, but
also by forgetting about those devastating
road losses earlier this year.
And because of all of that, Michigan heads
into the offseason with something this pro-
gram and this young team needed more than
it ever did in the past.
Victory.
-Burke can be reached at chrisbur@umich.edu.

Michigan center Courtney Sims blocks a shot in the Wolverines' 64-63 win over Purdue on Feb. 7, 200
a s sqUeak with last-

February 9, 2004
By Chris Burke
Daily Staff Writer
It's hard for someone 6-foot-11 to hide any-
where without being noticed, but that's exactly
what Michigan freshman Courtney Sims was
able to do during the closing seconds against
Purdue on Saturday.
After a Brandon McKnight fade-away jumper
capped a 16-point Purdue comeback to give the
Boilermakers the 63-62
lead with just under eight
seconds remaining in the
game, Michigan point guard Daniel Horton took
the inbounds and raced the length of the court.
His floater in the lane came up short of the
rim. Waiting for the miss, though, was Sims,
who had snuck behind the Purdue defenders as
they scrambled to stop Horton's penetration.
Sims's first tip-in attempt fell out, but the
center managed to knock home the second
chance, giving Michigan a 64-63 win.
"I knew (Horton) was going to take the shot
- I just wanted to get into position," Sims
said. "When he missed it, it just happened to
fall into my hands. I tried to tip it in but
missed, and I just stayed with it until it fell."
The Michigan big man was able to get into
position for the game-winner thanks, in no
small part, to Purdue's absence of timeouts.
Instead of stopping the clock and setting up
their defense, the Boilermakers' were forced
to try and improvise a defense on the fly to
stop the charging Horton - a situation that

led to Sims' terrific inside position.
"I wish we would've had (a timeout)," Pur-
due coach Gene Keady said. "If we'd have had
one, we would've won the game because we
would've got our defense set up. We didn't
block out. You've got to punch the ball out,
and not let them have another possession."
After the referees viewed the replay of Sims's
shot, Purdue was given 1.4 seconds to attempt to
steal a win, but the Boilermakers' final heave
downcourt was tipped away, preventing any last-
second shot attempt and preserving a roller-
coaster victory for the Wolverines.
"I don't think we escaped; I think we won,"
Horton said. "I think that's something that
this team is getting used to doing - pulling
it out at the end."
For the first eight minutes of the second
half, it looked as if Michigan (4-4 Big Ten,
13-6 overall) might run Purdue (5-4, 15-7) out
of sold-out Crisler Arena. After leading 35-30
at the half, the Wolverines watched Purdue
trim the advantage to one before responding
with a 15-2 run to open that 16-point cushion.
Freshman Dion Harris started the spurt by
converting a layup after Horton thread-the-
needle with a bounce pass through two Pur-
due defenders. Two plays later, Harris forced a
turnover and fed senior Bernard Robinson for
an easy bucket.
"I thought our defense was terrific," Michi-
gan coach Tommy Amaker said. "We were
able to use our defense to create good shots
offensively."
But that was the high watermark for the

i

4 at Crisier Arena.
second tip-i
Wolverines. Keady used one of his team's
timeouts, turning the momentum around.
"(I told them in the timeout) to be aggres-
sive on offense first and believe they could
make a comeback," Keady said. "In college
basketball, you're never out of it."
Purdue forward David Teague began to heat
up from the field, while the Wolverines'
offense was lulled to sleep by the Boilermak-
ers' zone defense.
Michigan went almost 11 minutes without
a basket, managing a mere three free throws
over that stretch, allowing Purdue to tie the
game at 57.
"I think (we frustrated them)," Teague said.
"We had them right where we wanted them."
The two teams wrestled back-and-forth from
then on. Horton ended the scoring troubles by
drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key. But
Horton and Sims each missed the front end of
one-and-one free throw opportunities, paving
the way for McKnight to hit two shots to put
Purdue ahead in the final 30 seconds.
Sims and Horton's late-game heroics were
the culmination of solid evenings from both
players. Horton had a game-high 19 points
and added five assists, while Sims recorded
11 points and 15 boards for his first career
double-double. Robinson joined Sims in the
double-double category with 11 points and
10 rebounds.
Michigan returns to action on Wednesday
as it travels to Minnesota to take on the Gold-
en Gophers, who are still winless in the Big
Ten after losing to Illinois yesterday.

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