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January 27, 2005 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-27

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Thursday
January 27, 2005
sports. michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

SPORTS

5A

5A

Cagers looking to
slow Spartan tno

Time for M'to show
it 's prepared to fight

By Brian Schick
Daily Sports Editor
For all the controversy surrounding the
Michigan basketball team this week, there
is still a game to be played - against its
biggest rival, no less.
The Wolverines are prob-
ably happy to be returning to
the hardcourt after a week in.
which junior guard Daniel
Horton was arraigned for a
domestic violence charge.
Coach Tommy Amaker's
suspension of Horton for at vBto
least tonight's game against
the Spartans at the Bres-
lin Center will not be easy
to overcome for a struggling Michigan
team that has lost two straight.
"We are recognizing that we have
been a team that has been in flux, and this
* is another issue that is on the forefront
that is going to require another one of our
players to be out," Amaker said. "We are
always hoping to have a full lineup and
a full team, and we haven't been able to
have that for a variety of reasons, and this
is another reason. It doesn't help."
The Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 12-7
overall) will look to sophomore guard
Dion Harris to carry the team, just as
he did earlier in the season when Horton
was out with a knee injury. Michigan
State (4-1, 12-3) features a dynamic trio

of guards in Alan Anderson, Shannon
Brown and Maurice Ager, with Ager
leading all Spartans in scoring with
13.7 points per game. All three are also
major threats from behind the arc - the
triumvirate shoots a combined 40 per-
cent from 3-point range.

.. ...p. ..
r;''et~

"I think this might
be the most difficult
game for me, going
into it without Horton,"
Harris said. "They have
athletes on the perim-
eter, and I know they'll
be guarding like they
always do."
Michigan will have
its hands full in the

frontcourt as well. Forward Alan Ander-
son and center Paul Davis are averaging
over 12 points per game and have a con-
siderable size advantage over their Mich-
igan counterparts. But according to the
Associated Press, Davis is questionable
because of a sprained ankle he sustained
on Saturday in the Spartans' 69-55 win
over Minnesota.
"He is a tough person to play against,"
sophomore Courtney Sims said about
Davis. "He is athletic, and he has good
post moves. He is a marked man, and he
has to deal with that every night. I know
that must be tough because I am getting a
lot more concentration from other teams.
So I know that is tough on him also."

RYAN WEINER/Daily
Courtney Sims and the Wolverines will travel to Michigan State tonight. They
haven't won at the Breslin Center since 1996.

On top of the imposing matchups,
the Wolverines will be heading into
the unfriendly confines of the Bres-
lin Center, where they haven't won
since Jan. 13, 1996. Michigan State
coach Tom Izzo told the Associated
Press that he was going to ask the
Izzone - the Michigan State student
section - to refrain from making
comments about Horton's suspen-
sion. But that may not happen and

Michigan will have to be prepared
to receive considerable jeering from
the green and white faithful.
"It is one of the toughest places to play
in the Big Ten, by far," sophomore for-
ward Brent Petway said. "They have a
nice little student section going on over
there. They're loud, and they try to get
in your head a lot. I like places like that.
I play to the crowd, so I think I'm going
have a lot of fun in there (tonight)."

CHRIS BURKE
Goin' to Work
W ith coach Tommy Amaker an
unwilling Lemony Snicket to
Michigan's ridiculous unfortunate
series of events, the Wolverines have had
to traverse more land mines than should be
allowed for one team during the course of a
season. They've been forced to use 11 differ-
ent starting lineups this season due to injuries.
And that was before starting point guard
and team leader Daniel Horton found himself
on the wrong side of the law this week.
So tonight, Michigan heads into Michigan
State standing on the brink.
One more nudge in the wrong direction
and the Wolverines could go plummeting off
the cliff- give up the NCAA Tournament
dreams, lose several games on the way out,
maybe head back to the NIT and chalk up the
season as a disappointment.
But nothing that this current roster has
done in the past would suggest that they're
about to throw in the towel.
In 2002-03, the Wolverines were nailed
with sanctions and started the season 0-6.
They then finished by winning 17 of their last
24 and nearly won the Big Ten title.
Last season, Michigan was snubbed by the
NCAA Tournament after an 18-11 regular
season - and responded by winning the NIT
championship.
Now, the challenges are mounting
again. It looks like there's too much to
overcome - like the Wolverines would be
best surrendering to those obstacles.
So which Michigan team will show up
tonight and the rest of the season? Nobody
knows.
But we're about to find out.
There is some part of you - whether
you think Amaker is a good Big Ten coach
or not - that has to feel sorry for the guy.
He was brought in here after former coach-
es Steve Fisher and Brian Ellerbe took the
program, broke out the gasoline and burned
it to ashes.
Amaker arrived four years ago with about
as little talent and as little hope as the Michi-
gan basketball program has ever seen. On top
of that, he started his second season with a

postseason ban and the erasure of some of the
program's greatest memories from the history
books.
So Amaker was faced with the gargantuan
task of restoring the team to the point where
it could compete for titles in the Big Ten
and returning the program to respectability
around the country.
He's done both.
There are those who will argue that now-
graduated Bernard Robinson Jr. should
have faced stiffer penalties after assaulting a
female in 2003. And there are those that are
already arguing to never let Horton set foot
on the Crisler Arena court again.
Here's something you can't argue with:
Amaker has earned respect - from his team,
in the University community and across col-
lege basketball.
How he's initially dealt with this Horton
situation is indicative of why that's the case.
With his Wolverines firmly on the NCAA
Tournament bubble and heading into their
biggest game of the year to date in East Lan-
sing, Amaker didn't even bother to consider
Horton's lingering knee injuries - instead
sitting the junior down until his off-the-court
issue is resolved.
Amaker was asked to be the face of
Michigan's revival as a top-notch basketball
program and - at least off the court - he
has never wavered and rarely disappointed.
On the court, there is still ground for
Michigan to cover. Since the Wolverines hit
the skids during Ellerbe's reign, their yearly
matchups with Michigan State have been the
team's measuring stick.
The gap between the two programs closed
significantly two years ago when Michigan
stunned Michigan State in Ann Arbor. It
stayed tight last year when the Wolverines
had the Spartans on the ropes again before
watching a 12-point lead slip away.
Tonight, minus Horton and injured Lester
Abram and possibly banged-up Chris Hunter,
Michigan could be in for a beating. It might
look like Michigan State has re-established an
insurmountable gap.
Don't buy it.
If and when this team ever gets healthy and
puts its whole lineup on the floor (like, say,
next season), my guess is that Michigan will
be pretty darn good.
And the biggest reason for that is that
this current group of players - save for the
Horton incident - has been exactly what
Amaker wanted when he recruited them:
talented basketball players, solid students and
See BURKE, page 8A

* ICE HOCKEY
lCers aim to thaw Wildcats' stout defense

By Ian Herbert
Daily Sports Writer

Something's gotta give. When the
Michigan ice hockey team 'faces off
against Northern Michigan this week-
end at Yost Ice Arena, the
CCHA's best offense will be
up against its best defense.
Michigan (16-2-0 CCHA,
19-6-1 overall) leads the
CCHA in scoring - aver- .'
aging 4.3 goals per game. At.7
times, it has looked like the Yost
Wolverines can score at will.
Sophomore T.J. Hensick has
hovered near the top of the CCHA lead-
ing scorers' list all season long and is a
realistic candidate for the Hobey Baker
Award, given to college hockey's best
player. Hensick is second in the confer-

'm1
i
:3

ence in scoring with 35 points and leads
the league with 16 goals. And he's not the
only one putting up points. Michigan has
13 players this season who have double-
digit points, including five with 20 or
more. The team has scored fewer than
four goals at Yost just
once all season.
"You never know
how many we're ever
Michigan at going to get," senior
chigan captain Eric Nystrom
0 p~m. said. "And that's what
ke Arena our team is capable of
doing. That's one of the
strengths of our team,
and that's why we do it. Momentum is so
huge in college hockey that once you get
the ball rolling, sometimes it snowballs."
Last week in Columbus, the Wolver-
ines scored five goals in a huge second

period that led Michigan over the Buck-
eyes. In fact, Michigan has scored three
or more goals in a single period 13 times
this season. On the other end of the spec-
trum, the Wildcats score just 2.6 goals
per game. But they don't have to score
any more than that; they allow just 2.2
goals per game, and their style of play
has the Wildcats (10-5-3, 12-7-5) third in
the conference. It starts with their goalie,
senior Tuomas Tarkki. Among starting
goalies, Tarkki leads the CCHA in both
goals against average (1.79) and save per-
centage (.940).
"Their good goaltending has been
their finishing kick," Hensick said. "He's
playing real well. He's the backbone of
that team.
"That puts a lot of pressure on our
team to pick it up, knowing that they only
need one or two goals to get the win. It's

something that we've been focusing on
all week."
As if it wasn't going to be enough of a
challenge for the Wolverines to score this
weekend on the Wildcats' stingy defense,
yesterday they were dealt the news that
three of their forwards will not play in
the series. Center David Moss - who
is fourth on the team in scoring with 24
points - suffered a groin injury earlier
this week and will not play. Sophomore
forwards Mike Brown and David Rohlfs
both contracted mononucleosis and
will also have to watch from the stands.
Coach Red Berenson said that they are in
different stages of the illness and would
be week-to-week. -
With those three out, seniors Mike
Woodford, Charlie Henderson and Reilly
Olson will dress in their places. Olson
See ICERS, page 8A

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