December 8, 2004
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Cagers ride center
to 14-point victory..
Too early for Blue
to give up on Sims
By Josh Holman
Daily Sports Writer
Welcome to Michigan men's basketball
2004-05 - take two.
The Wolverines beat High Point 67-53
last night at Crisler
Arena, butthey wereH T
forced to do it with a MICHIGAN
group of players that
fans aren't used to seeing on the floor with
Michigan (5-3) was without three
starters last night. Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker learned over the week-
end that junior wing Lester Abram
would be lost for the season with a
shoulder injury and junior forward Gra-
ham Brown would be out for four-to-six
weeks after hernia surgery.
Then on Sunday, guard Daniel Hor-
ton injured his knee during practice, in
what Amaker described as a collision
with another player. The junior is listed
as being out indefinitely and received an
MRI during the second half of the game.
The injury bug forced Amaker to reach
deep down his bench, and he was happy
with what he found.
"We were certainly pleased with the
effort that our players gave this evening,"
Amaker said. "Obviously with different
combinations, different lineups and things
that you can't really prepare for in a lot
of different ways, I thought it was a great
Forward Chris Hunter made his first
start of the year for the Wolverines and
wasted no time in making the most of his
appearance. The forward scored nine of
Michigan's first 11 points. He also took
a charge, recorded a rebound and hit a 3-
pointer in the opening four minutes of the
game, which could have been titled "The
Chris Hunter Show."
Hunter surpassed his career high of 13
points in the first half alone by scoring 15.
ffe finished the game with 22 points on
9-for-12 shooting and six rebounds in a
career-high 30 minutes.
"I think I'm a very confident player,"
Hunter said. "The guys were looking
for me and getting me the ball, so I was
just strong with the ball and made quick
moves. And tonight, I got shots to fall in."
Hunter wasn't the only Wolverine
who turned in personal bests. Sopho-
more wing John Andrews set a career
high in points (10) and minutes (29),
while junior guard Dani Wohl set a
career high in minutes (30) and tied a
career mark in points (four).
Andrews has started three games
in Abram's absence and has suddenly
become a scoring option instead of a
"I'm still kind of shocked, playing from
the bench and going to a starter," Andrews
said. "You just fill the holes. You do what
you need to do to get the job done."
The Wolverines did have two regular
starters left in sophomores Dion Harris
and Courtney Sims, but one of them was
still on the bench at tipoff.
Amaker decided to put in Hunter
instead of Sims, forcing the center to
come off the bench for the first time in his
While Sims started slow - he didn't
score at all in the first half - he fin-
ished the game with 12 points on 5-of-6
But Harris had a less-than-impres-
sive game, considering he has seem-
ingly become Michigan's No. 1 scoring
option overnight. The guard shot just 3-
for-13 from the floor and finished with
When Harris shared the backcourt
with Abram and Horton, he was usu-
ally scoring option No. 3. Fortunately
for Harris, the team didn't need a lights-
out shooting performance from him this
"Who knows what will happen in
other games?" Harris said. "In particular
Forward Chris Hunter dunks for two of his game-high 22 points last night.
tonight, I didn't have to score that much. good the Wolverines are against a Big
Other guys stepped up and it was a great South opponent like High Point (2-6), the
game for us." stretch ahead should give Amaker a bet-
If the crew of walking wounded could ter feel whether the players he has left are
have picked any time in Michigan's sched- enough to keep Michigan on the road to
ule to miss games, this was it. After four the NCAA Tournament.
games against NCAA Tournament-wor- "I think (last night) proves that we
thy teams - three of which were on the have players that, in time of need, we can
road - the Wolverines now play four turn to," Amaker said. "I think when you
of their next five games at home against talk to our players in the locker room,
unranked opponents. they'll be excited to know we can count
Although it's hard to gauge just how on them."
really didn't think I'd be writing
this column. A week ago, I won-
dered who'd want to read about
why Michigan was able to crush
But a lot has changed in the
last week with Daniel Horton out
indefinitely, Lester Abram out for
the season and Graham Brown gone
for more than a month. It's a brave
new world for the Michigan basket-
ball team. It appeared the Michigan
frontcourt would be responsible for
carrying most of the offense until
Horton comes back this season.
Reserves would be called upon to
fill the void, and the remaining
starters - Dion Harris and Court-
ney Sims- would have a bigger
role to fill.
Or so I thought. Imagine my sur-
prise to see Sims out of the starting
lineup against High Point for the
first time in his Michigan career. It
seemed obvious that Harris would
have to carry the load for the guards
and Sims would have to carry
the frontcourt. But coach Tommy
Amaker decided to put Chris Hunter
in Sims's spot. When asked about
the decision after the game, he didn't
seem to offer much insight.
"I didn't think that Courtney was
playing as well," Amaker said curtly.
Before the game started, I really
questioned the decision to start
Hunter. While Hunter has made
the most of his limited minutes so
far this season, Sims had been Mr.
Consistency so far. I figured that
Michigan might get dominated in
the post, as Hunter doesn't have the
bulk that Sims does (Sims has 20
pounds on Hunter). He was always
good for about 10 points, eight
boards and a couple blocks.
I was pleasantly surprised by
Hunter's play, as he scored a career-
high 22 points. But Sims made
a statement to Amaker and the
coaching staff that he wasn't going
to give up the spot that easily. He
scored all of his 12 points in the
second half. Sims's point total was
also Michigan's second-highest
point total behind Hunter, despite
the fact that Sims played just 17
minutes. When asked about Sims
again later in the press confer-
ence, Amaker offered praise for the
sophomore's play, and he singled
out Sims in his postgame speech in
the locker room.
"I thought he responded (well),"
Amaker said. "He didn't hang his
head. He battled and he did his job.
It was a very solid game (for him)."
The last few games have been
somewhat of a mystery for Sims,
who had seen a reduction of playing
time since the beginning of the sea-
son. Sims began the season averag-
ing about 30 minutes per game and
saw that number cut down to the
mid-20s during the Preseason NIT.
The last two games saw that number
fall down into the teens.
I'm not trying to create any con-
spiracy theories, but it would seem
that while Sims has maintained
consistent stats throughout the
season, he has done it with decreas-
ing playing time. Sims indicated
that the coaches didn't tell him the
reason why he didn't start, but he
believed it had something to do
with rebounding or defense.
"Anyone who competes wants to
start," Sims said. "Of course I want
to start. But I don't think it really
With Horton out for an indefinite
amount of time (he was scheduled
to have an MRI on his knee last
night) and Abram gone for the sea-
son, Michigan's frontcourt will be
called upon for scoring and espe-
cially offensive rebounding. The
Wolverines have been fairly weak
rebounding this season, pulling just
88 off the offensive glass in seven
games heading into last night's
contest. Perhaps the most troubling
trend has been a negative rebound-
ing margin, something that hurt in
Michigan's loss to Arizona.
Sims said that he didn't think
his play showed he deserved the
spot back - Hunter made a pretty
strong case as well - but I think
the coaches may have been too
harsh on him. There has been some
discussion that Sims isn't playing
up to his potential and his declin-
ing minutes are supposed to reflect
this. But I think he's been perform-
ing well in the role that was created
for him: be a dominant rebounder
and chip in some points from time
to time. Sims is leading the team in
offensive and total rebounds, while
still contributing around 10 points
per game - sounds like he's been
playing pretty well so far. With
injuries becoming a major factor in
playing time this season, Michigan
shouldn't be so quick to deny play-
ing time to players who have been
solid contributors thus far.
Brian Schick can be reached at
Backups step up for ailing Wolverines
By Eric Ambinder
Daily Sports Writer
With captains Lester Abram and Graham Brown
and guard Daniel Horton out of the game because
of injuries, several players usually relegated to the
bench had to play significant minutes last night
against High Point, and all of them made the most
of that opportunity.
"I certainly was pleased - with players being
out - how these kids responded with their oppor-
tunities," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
"You never know when that opportunity is going
to come. Are you going to be prepared for it? I
thought this question was answered here tonight."
Freshman Ron Coleman, junior Chris Hunter
and sophomore Brent Petway all started their first
game of the season against the Panthers.
"You play the hand you've been dealt," Amaker
said. "That's what we're doing, and we have confi-
dence in the players that we have in our program."
Sophomore John Andrews - who started in
place of Abram - scored a career-high 10 points
on 3-for-7 shooting. Andrews walked on to the
team as a freshman last year, yet he has become
one of the Wolverines' most consistent players.
Over the past three games - all starts - he's shot
7-for-14 from the floor and has committed just two
"With (Andrews's) performance, he's tough and
he's smart and he played that way," Amaker said.
"We were very pleased with the effort that our
players gave us tonight."
Seldom-used senior walk-on Dani Wohl played
in place of the injured Horton. Wohl contributed
mostly on the defensive end, playing solid on-the-
ball defense for most of the night. On his very
first defensive assignment, he forced his man into
a five-second call. The senior played 30 minutes
- a career high.
"I just tried to do whatever I could to give the
team a lift," Wohl said. "I'm just trying to get us to
that level that (Horton's) playing at. And obviously
I can't play as well as he can, but I just try and do
whatever I can to help the team."
Playing alongside Wohl at shooting guard, Cole-
man looked much more comfortable with his jump
shot last night than he has all season. The fresh-
man had to learn Amaker's system at an accelerat-
ed pace but has been improving lately. He scored a
career-high 11 points in Michigan's 61-60 win over
Notre Dame on Saturday and added five points in
19 minutes yesterday.
"I think Ron is really coming along," J.C. Mathis
said. "It took him a little time to get used to our
system - coach Amaker moved along pretty fast
- so it took him a little time, but now he's play-
Amaker did not start sophomore Courtney Sims,
saying the forward has not performed as well as he
would have liked lately. This decision left sopho-
more guard Dion Harris as the only Wolverine to
start all eight games for Michigan this season. In
addition to Wohl, three other Wolverines logged
season highs in minutes: forwards Hunter (30)
and Mathis (8), and wing John Andrews (29). The
Wolverines' upcoming player rotation appears to
"We are going to have a big challenge on our
hands because we don't know our personnel right
now," Amaker said.
Junior Dani Wohl played 30 minutes in the Michigan
victory - a career high.
Sophomore Courtney Sims came off the
bench for the first time in his career.