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February 04, 2005 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-04

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February 4,2005
sports. michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

SPORTS

8

Second-half slump
sinks Wolverines

Blue losses follow
predictable pattern

0I

By Matt Venegoni
Daily Sports Writer
College basketball is a 40-minute game.
Unfortunately for the Michigan wom-
en's basketball team, it still cannot string
together a full game
against a formida- 'S
ble opponent. Last MICmiGAN 61
night's 76-61 loss to
No. 23 Penn State showed that Michigan is
halfway to being able to keep up with some
of the best in the Big Ten, after leading at
halftime 28-25.
"We just have to put two halves togeth-
er," Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said.
Two minutes into the second half, senior
forward Tabitha Pool took an elbow to the
head from Penn State sophomore Amanda
Brown. It turned out to be a bad omen for
the Wolverines. Penn State went on a 21-6
run, taking control of the game and never
looking back.
Michigan bottled up senior Tanisha
Wright in the first half, but the 5-10 guard
netted 17 points in the second frame to fin-
ish with 19. During a key 19-4 run, Wright
scored 9 points. Penn State's veteran team
put pressure on Michigan (1-9 Big Ten,
5-16 overall) throughout the second half.
Almost every time the Wolverines brought
the ball up the floor, a Lady Lion was in
the face of the Michigan ballhandler. Penn
State's 1-3-1 zone forced many problems
for Michigan, causing six of Michigan's

eight second-half turnovers during the 21-6
run. Those turnovers led to layups that pad-
ded the Penn State lead.
"They changed defenses a lot," Burnett
said. 'It was enough to keep us off guard.
They run a half-court 1-3-1 zone. We had
three wonderful possessions, but then we
would have some not so great possessions.
Our turnovers made a big difference for
them and gave them some easy shots."
After the fateful elbow incident, Penn
State tied the score at 31-31 on a fall-
ing layup from senior Jess Strom. With
the Michigan defense concentrating on
Wright, Strom took advantage of the
extra space on her way to 29 points, tying
her career-high. While Wright struggled
in the first half, Strom carried the Lady
Lions, dropping 10 points.
"We played one great half of basket-
ball," Michigan Cheryl Burnett said. "We
did a great job of taking away their No. 1
option, Tanisha Wright. It was great team
defense."
Michigan's first half included a 16-7 run
to take the lead going into halftime. Pool
led Michigan with 22 points, including
eight in the second half while helping keep
Penn State on its heels.
"Our first two shots were 3-pointers,
which is not our game," Penn State coach
Rene Portland said. "We are a team that
likes to penetrate."
Michigan held Wright to just 1-for-8
shooting by forcing her to take some

PETER SCHOTTENFELS/I
Freshman Krista Clement scored three points in last night's 76-61 Michigan loss.

ill-advised shots. At times, the Wolver-
ines would rotate up to three players to
defend Wright.
"They did a nice job of clogging up
the paint (against) Wright," Portland
said. "We knew we were going to be in
for a dogfight."
With Penn State's best player struggling,
freshman forward Ta'Shia Walker spurred
the Michigan effort on both ends of the
floor, finishing with 10 points in the first
half and 14 for the game. But, once again,
Michigan could not maintain its inten-
sity in the second half. Once Wright and
Strom both got on track, the Wolverines

fell behind and could not get within eight.
The veteran duo for the Lady Lions never
lost confidence - they knew it would
just be a matter of time before their shots
would fall.
"We went into halftime and said 'our
shots aren't falling,' Strom said. "But we
said that we knew they would start,"
Even though the Wolverines suffered yet
another loss, they do not feel like they are
far from breaking through.
"We're right at the edge," Walker
said. "We just need to find that niche to
win. If we can break that little barrier,
we will be fine."

Shorthanded Icers looking for revenge

By Jake Rosenwasser
Daily Sports Writer

When Michigan and archrival Michigan State meet this
weekend, it will be the second-straight time that Michigan
will be playing its intrastate opponent shorthanded.
Last time the two teams met - on Dec. 30 in the Great
Lakes Invitational final - Michigan was without five play-

ers, who were representing the United States in the World
Junior Championships.
This time, the No. 5 Wolverines (17-3-0 CCHA, 20-7-1
overall) will be shorthanded because of illness and injury.
Michigan will take the ice for a two-game series against
the Spartans (8-9-1, 13-11-2) without regulars Mike Brown
and David Rohlfs - who are sidelined indefinitely due

to mononucleosis. The Wolverines will also
be without senior forward Jason Ryznar,
who broke his finger in last Saturday's win
against Northern Michigan. Seniors Charlie
Henderson, Michael Woodford and Reilly
Olson will play in their place.
"I don't think you really need a full line-
up," sophomore defenseman Matt Hunwick
said. "It's all about determination, playing
hard and just having that will to compete."
These games will be the teams' fourth and
fifth meetings between the intrastate rivals

THIS W
Michig
NMichiga
7:35 p.m.'
7:30 p.m.'
Yost IceA
Louis

game to attend because of the large, divided crowd and
because of the inevitable importance in the CCHA race
for one or both teams.
"It has been a big crowd game," Michigan coach Red
Berenson said. "And it always seems to be a meaningful
game too. It's a crunch-time game for both teams."
Its importance to the Wolverines is obvious. With a
split against Northern Michigan last
weekend and with Ohio State's sweep of
EEKEND Western Michigan, Michigan's lead in the
CCHA dwindled to three points.
gan vS. Michigan State is hovering in the mid-
an State dle of conference standings and.is playing
Tonight, for home-ice advantage in the first round
Tomorrow of the CCHA tournament.
Arena/Joe "The rivalry is always gonna be there,"
Arena Hunwick said. "No matter if they're in
first and we're in last or the opposite. It's
still going to be an intense weekend."
C-YA NEWs: Last night, executive Associate Ath-
letic Director Michael Stevenson met, for the second
time, with student season-ticket holders to discuss the
controversy surrounding the C-YA cheer. Stevenson
made clear that he wants to eradicate a few of the
words he finds inappropriate and not the entire cheer.
About 50 student season-ticket holders out of more
than 1,000 came to discuss the issue over pizza. The
athletic department also announced the creation of a
contest for a 2005 Michigan hockey T-shirt contest.
The contest would be similar to Michigan football's.
The athletic department hopes to put the words to a
new, revised C-YA cheer on the back of the T-shirt.
The athletic department also rewarded those who came
to the meeting by giving them a tour of the Michigan
hockey locker room.

STEPHANIE WRIGHT
Wright on Target
or a game with such a surprising
start, the ending was all too pre-
dictable.
It has been a common theme for
Michigan in conference play - keep the
game close for part of the first half and
then watch the other team not only come
back but win by a large margin.
It happened against then-No. 5 Ohio
State on Jan. 11, when a 19-17 lead after
13 minutes turned into a 28-point Buck-
eyes' victory. It happened against North-
western and then-No. 20 Purdue. The
only game in which the Wolverines were
never competitive was their 24-point loss
to No. 12 Minnesota two weeks ago.
But as seemingly inevitable as that
script has been, I have to admit I was
shocked by how long the Wolverines kept
it close against Penn State. The Lady
Lions are the defending Big Ten cham-
pions and led by seniors Tanisha Wright
and Jess Strom - two reliable all-around
players who know what it takes to win in
almost any situation.
I thought it would be a blowout by the
first media timeout.
But 10 minutes into the first half,
Michigan was leading by one. And the
most surprising scene was just around
the corner. The Lady Lions exploded for
a 12-2 run, and it looked like the Wolver-
ines were going to step back and let No.
23 Penn State take over.
Instead, Michigan fought back, refus-
ing to back down, and playing with
resolve and nearly flawless execution
that was unlike anything it has shown
all season.
Janelle Cooper drove into the lane but
missed a layup. Rather than be discour-
aged, Cooper got back into position,
grabbed the rebound and wouldn't stop
fighting for it until she and Penn State's
Jennifer Harris were on the floor.
A few plays later, as the shot clock
ticked down, Krista Clement caught
the ball and forced an off-balance shot.
When it didn't go in, Tabitha Pool was
right there to nab the board and sink the
put-back.
Perhaps the best performance came
from Ta'Shia Walker, who had struggled
in recent games. Last night, she played
with confidence and poise that enabled
her to exploit Penn State frontcourt for 16
points. Her final basket of the half gave
Michigan a 28-25 lead going into halftime.
But that's when inevitability set in.
As well as the Wolverines executed in
the first half, Penn State played that much
better in the second. Strom understood
how to motivate and refocus her team-
mates. She said she knew their shots
would start to fall eventually. So she
continued to set up plays for Wright, who

made pretty passes underneath the basket
and fought to score on every possession.
Penn State made plays when it needed
to make them. Michigan wasn't out-
worked; it was simply outplayed.
"There were some beautiful posses-
sions," Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett
said. "There just weren't enough of them."
Last night, the Wolverines displayed
the occasional flash of promise that keep
me optimistic about their future. Even
with their collapse in the second half, it
was still the best game I have seen them
play all year. I think Penn State is one of
the most underrated teams in the nation
- and Michigan was beating them at
the half.
But the reality of the present is that the
Wolverines will struggle to win another
game this season. Three of Michigan's
final six opponents - Minnesota, Ohio
State and Michigan State - are ranked
among the top-15 in the nation, and two
of those games are on the road. The Wol-
verines have already played all six teams
remaining on their schedule - and lost
each time.
Michigan is 5-16. Sometimes this
team outperforms its record, like during
its 14-2 run to close out the first half. But
overall, I believe the Wolverines - like
most teams - are only as good as their
record indicates. There's a reason why
they have lost 16 games. Those flashes of
promise are too few and far between to
argue that Michigan is better than its last-
place standing in the Big Ten. Penn State
proved last night that truly good teams
find a way to win; Michigan seems to
lose even when it plays well.
That doesn't mean the Wolverines'
season is lost just yet. No one - myself
included - expected anything from this
team when it suited up for its first game
three months ago. Seven freshmen? Just
one returning starter? You would have
been crazy to think Michigan could hang
with the much older and more experi-
enced Lady Lions for even part of a game.
But that's what the Wolverines did.
Michigan should no longer measure
its success by wins. Those pie-in-the-sky
dreams of making the NCAA tourna-
ment returned to the ground with a
resounding thud weeks ago. Clearly, that
fantasy will not become reality - at least
not this year.
But if the Wolverines can continue to
play hard and work even harder, they will
gain experience that is far more valuable
than any of their five wins. I'm not imply-
ing that Burnett should look to the future
entirely; she won't help her young team
improve by sitting Pool so the freshmen
can play more. Michigan should still do
everything possible to win a game if it
can. But even if the Wolverines finish
their season with six-straight losses, a little
progress in each game could mean a few
more surprises - and wins - next year.
For this team at this point in the sea-
son, predictable improvement would be
more important than surprising wins.
Stephanie Wright can be reached at
smwr@umich.edu.

this season. In November, Michigan swept the Spartans in
a home-in-home series. The Wolverines beat the Spartans
4-2 at Munn Ice Arena and 5-4 at home in Yost Ice Arena.
But the Spartans got their revenge in the GLI, with a 2-1
overtime win in the final.
Ryznar's injury may have come at the worst possible
time. In his three years at Michigan, Ryznar has been most
successful against the Spartans. In Ryznar's first ever game
for Michigan - the Cold War at Michigan State's Spartan
Stadium in 2001 - Ryznar tallied a goal and two assists.
This season, Ryznar- who is known as a defensive for-
ward - tallied two assists in Michigan's November sweep
over the Spartans.
Today's game will be played at Yost and tomorrow's
game will be in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. The annual
Joe Louis game between the two teams has become a fun

JOEL FRIEDMAN/Daily
Sophomore David Rohlfs won't be In action this
weekend against Michigan State.

T-SHIR T COlNTEST
The Michigan Athletic Department announced its third annual football T-shirt
design contest. Currently enrolled Michigan students are invited to submit original
four-color designs for the front and back of a short-sleeved T-shirt. The winning
design will be chosen by a panel of students and athletic department and Univer-
sity officials. The winner will receive two football season tickets and the opportu-
nity to hold the 'Go Blue' banner during the Wolverines' home opener on Sept.
3 against Northern Illinois. An entry form and more information can be found at
MGoBlue.cFm. Entries will be accepted from now until Feb. 18 at 5 p.m.

aMEN' s BASKETBALL
Against Buckeyes, 'M' aims to end skid

By Josh Holman
Daily Sports Editor
After Wednesday's 71-54 home
loss to Minnesota, the Wolverines (3-

on the season.
"When you're going through a
funk or in a slide as we are, you try
to change things," Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker said.

5 Big Ten, 12-10 overall)
might be running out of
options.
During the course of
this current five-game
losing streak, Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker
has tried a variety of
lineups and person-
nel changes in order to
find some sort of spark.
Three different starting

TOMORROW
Michigan at
Ohio State
12:17 p.m.
Value City Arena
ESPN-Plus

But each time he's
initiated some kind of
change, Michigan's per-
formance has just gotten
worse. What began as a
62-53 loss at Indiana on
Jan. 19 - a relatively
close game until the
final moments - trans-
formed into blowout
losses to what many
considered two of the
weaker teams in Purdue

deal with another middle-of-the-
pack team this weekend at Ohio
State (4-4, 15-7).
If Michigan wants to prevent itself
from becoming a bottom-feeder in the
Big Ten, it will need more help from
two of its biggest contributors.
Sophomores Dion Harris and
Courtney Sims - Michigan's second
and fourth leading scorers, respective-
ly - were held scoreless in Wednes-
day's game. With junior Lester Abram
already out for the season with a shoul-
der injury, and junior Daniel Horton
suspended from the team indefinitely
after being arraigned on domestic
violence charges, the Wolverines basi-
cally played without four of its biggest
scoring threats.
"(Harris and Sims) are very impor-

lineups have taken the floor in those
fives games. Amaker has already used
a total of 14 different starting lineups

Big Ten's

tant to this team right now," junior tri-
captain Sherrod Harrell said. "They're
both in a slump right now, and we as
teammates have to fight with them."
Sims has fallen on especially hard
times during the slump. He is averag-
ing just 6.8 points and 21.6 minutes
per game during the losing streak,
forcing Amaker to look elsewhere on
the roster for big men.
"Courtney's not playing very well
right now," Amaker said. "When
you have some more bodies to
rotate through there with Courtney,
Brent (Petway), Graham (Brown)
and Chris (Hunter), you're going
to go with guys in an emergency
moment. You don't have a lot of
time to decide things."
While Michigan is suffering from a
case of underachievement, Ohio State
has quietly overachieved. First-year
coach Thad Motta has the team in
the thick of things after most people
gave up on the Buckeyes when they
announced self-imposed sanctions
that would prevent them from any
postseason play this season.
Three players - led by junior cen-
ter Terrence Dials, who is averaging
15.2 points per game and 8.3 rebounds
per game - average more than 10
points for game for Ohio State.
But even without two of their top
*<.<e. ln t7lv rn e oi m t}

and Minnesota.
Now the Wolverines will have to

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0

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