February 22, 2005
. . .... .... . . .. .
M looks to
By Josh Holman
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker has conquered
the secret to marriage. He has pinpointed the differ-
ence between men and women.
"My wife always says I need to try to understand it,"
Amaker said. "Males always want to fix something,"
Now he's taking the next logical step - applying
the tools of marriage to basketball. Wait. Applying the
tools of marriage to basketball?
"I think that's the disturbing part for us - that we
haven't been able to find things to fix it," Amaker said.
"Whether it's fixable, I don't know, but the job is to
That "us" refers to the Michigan basketball team
and the "it" refers to its 10-game losing streak. The
skid is the longest in school history since 1982, when
the Wolverines dropped 11 games in a row. They were
actually awarded a win for the sixth game of that
stretch when it was later learned that Wisconsin had
played with an ineligible player and was forced to for-
feit its victory.
But unless Michigan can take Amaker's marriage
wisdom and apply it to the court, it is in danger of hit-
ting that dubious 11-game mark tomorrow when Penn
State visits Ann Arbor.
"We don't like being in this situation, obviously,"
junior tri-captain Sherrod Harrell said. "It's not a good
place to be for us. Everybody wants to try to find their
own way to do something and try to help the situation.
That's all positive."
The Wolverines have run the gamut of possible
remedies to reverse the losing trend. They've tried
everything from turning to their bench players at the
beginning of the streak to slowing down the offense
at the end of it.
But the whole 10-game span has been with filled
distractions no team should ever be expected to deal
Dion Harris, man
o much mystery
Michigan tri-captain Sherrod Harrell is trying to help teammates cope with the Wolverines 10-game losing streak.
with. Junior guard Daniel Horton was suspended
indefinitely on Jan. 25 after being arraigned on domes-
tic violence charges, two games into the losing streak.
It wasn't until Sunday that the team finally announced
Horton would be suspended for the remainder of the
season after pleading guilty in court on Feb. 14.
Michigan has also had to deal with injuries to key
players such as Chris Hunter during the streak.
There have been so many distractions this sea-
son that, even Amaker's mentor, Duke coach Mike
Krzyzewski, has been at a loss of words for the situ-
"I don't like sharing my conversations with Coach
K," Amaker said. "But he called and said 'I've been
(coaching) for 30 years, and I really don't know what
to tell you. I've never experienced that.' "
But with the Horton situation effectively settled and
behind the team, Amaker and the Wolverines may
now have a real opportunity to concentrate on fixing
problems again, without distraction.
Sunday's 70-63 loss to Indiana was one of the most
competitive games the Wolverines have played during
the streak. Conveniently enough, Penn State was the
last team that Michigan beat, back on Jan. 15.
"Now we really know what's going on and every-
thing is taken care of this far in the season," sopho-
more Dion Harris said. "I think we just move on from
here with all the distractions out of the way."
Forward Rohlfs fights through injuries
By Gabe Edelson
Daily Sports Writer
With just over four minutes remaining and the Michi-
gan hockey team in front of Notre Dame by a score of
4-2 at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday, the Wolverines found
themselves shorthanded in more ways than one.
Not only was sophomore forward Mike Brown sit-
ting in the penalty box for a holding-the-stick infraction,
but also, Brown's teammate, forward David Rohlfs, was
writhing in pain on the ice. In the process of blocking a
Fighting Irish shot from the point, Rohlfs was hit in the
right knee with the puck and went down in a heap.
"I didn't know exactly what happened," Rohlfs said of
his initial reaction to going down. "I was trying to bend
(my leg) so I could get off (the ice), but I couldn't even
move my leg at all."
The sophomore clutched his leg for a few moments
before being helped to the bench by defenseman Matt
Hunwick and trainer Rick Bancroft, his bent right leg
hanging limply above the ice. Luckily, Rohlfs didn't sus-
tain a serious injury. Instead, he needed to deal with some
extreme swelling from the deep knee bruise.
"There's a nice red mark right where I got hit,"
Rohlfs said of his wound, which was protected by a
thin sleeve as he sat out practice yesterday. "It looked
like a half golf ball right under my skin (immediately
after the puck hit). But then we iced it and took care of
it, and it feels much better now."
Michigan coach Red Berenson wasn't too con-
cerned about Rohlfs's injury. As a man who has
spent his life immersed in hockey, Berenson knows
that the art of blocking shots - and its accompany-
ing bumps and bruises - is an essential component
of winning teams.
"I'm stressing blocking shots," Berenson said. "I think
we're doing a better job in games. Sure, it's going to hurt
once in a while, but (Rohlfs will) be fine."
Senior Jason Ryznar wasn't as lucky in the Wol-
verines' game against Northern Michigan on Jan. 29.
Ryznar broke his finger when he blocked a shot late in
the contest against the Wildcats, and he's been missing
from action ever since. If all goes well, Ryznar will suit
up for No. 4 Michigan's series with Bowling Green in
two weeks, but his situation has been the exception in
"(Ryznar) is the first player we've really had hurt block-
ing shots," Berenson said. "I've been here a long time,.
and he is the first player that's missed games because of
a blocked shot."
Rohlfs, for his part, knows that his injury is simply a
part of the game.
"On the penalty kill, the goal is to block shots," Rohlfs
said. "Coach puts you out there for that exact reason, to
block the shots. If (you get hit with a puck), it hurts, but
we got the win and we're that much closer to our ultimate
goal. So it's actually well worth it."
While Rohlfs doesn't expect to miss any playing time,
it wasn't his first malady of the season. The Northville
native has also dealt with poison ivy, an elbow injury and
mononucleosis this year.
Said Rohlfs with a smile: "Hopefully, I'm just getting
this all out before the playoffs start."
T ommy Amaker said he can't
figure it out.
Amaker's best player right
now - and maybe for the next two
seasons - is Peyton Manning one
game and Eli Manning the next.
Buried beneath the rubble of hur-
ricane Disappointment - a Michi-
gan basketball season full injuries,
off-court distraction, losing streaks
and walk-ons - are two versions of
There's the Illinois-Michigan State
Dion Harris (43 total points) and the
Minnesota-Ohio State Dion Harris
(nine total points).
The difference: self-motivation.
Sometimes it's there, sometimes
When it's there, Harris excels
offensively, hustles for balls and
drives hard to the basket, inspiring
teammates along the way. When it's
not, Michigan loses by double digits
to teams like Boston University and
Purdue, and that low-raspy voice
accompanied by near-watery eyes is
forced to explain itself.
Harris said in the games that he
doesn't play as well, he doesn't com-
pete as hard. What isn't clear is if this
is a conscious choice or a psych-out.
"I think it's kind of both, but I
think it's a lot of him psyching him-
self out," Dion's mother, Rischon
Dion's mother said she has never
seen her son play as unmotivated as
he has, at times, this season.
"I can see there is no motivation
(sometimes)," Rischon said. "I can
see it all over him. I can tell the way
he gets down the floor. I know right
off the bat, he's just thinking 'It's
not working.' "
This season, Harris rode out the
hurricane by staying in the eye.
Injuries or legal trouble haven't
gotten in his way, unlike 10 of his
teammates who've missed a com-
bined 74 games. With last season's
two best players out - Daniel
Horton because of suspension and
injury and Lester Abram due to
season-ending shoulder surgery
- Amaker had no choice but to
anchor the weight of the team on
Harris's back. There simply wasn't
another player on the roster capable
of inspiring the team with his play.
Graham Brown can motivate a
teammate to dive for a loose ball,
but not to score. And for a team
averaging a conference worst 57
points per game, right now, it needs
the net to dance more. The 2003
Michigan Mr. Basketball has the
highest basketball IQ on this team;
he's got to lead every single game
for Michigan to win again.
But with Horton and Abram out
and the star-guard detail cut from
three to one, Harris's leadership was
sparse and came in flurries, expir-
ing too soon in games for a win to
materialize. For much of the season,
Michigan played without a leader.
While it appeared Amaker sat idly
by scratching his head, he wasn't.
A day after Michigan's 64-53 loss
to Michigan State three weeks ago,
he brought in an AAU coach with
NBA connections to critique Harris's
game. Much of it was extremely
negative. The experience seemed to
hurt more than it helped. Harris shot
a combined 7-for-32 in the next three
"Dion's not the type of person..
that's going to listen to that," Rischon
said. "It has to be somebody that he
trusts. It has to be somebody that he
looks up to - that he feels can judge
him overall. Even if I come at him
in a negative way, he doesn't want
to talk. I learned not to criticize him
because I know that you can't get to
Dion that way."
Then, quite suddenly, something
got to Dion. Whether or not it was a
reported chat with Michigan football
star Braylon Edwards about leader-
ship, Harris was changed. Or, it
could have been Rischon finally get-
ting through to her son.
"When you start losing, thinking
like that is going to affect you, you
can't think 'win' or 'lose.' You just
have to think 'play,' " Rischon said
to Dion midway through Michigan's
current 10-game losing streak.
Sounds easy, but not for the mental
complexity of a basketball star as sen-
sitive as Dion, where the ebb and flow
of the game affects how he plays, and,
in turn, how his team plays.
In Michigan's next two games,
against No. 9 Michigan State and No
1 Illinois, Amaker said Harris played
like the best player on the court.
It wasn't Amaker or a teammate
that brought out Harris's inspiring
play; it all came from Harris himself.
"Against Illinois, I tried to let
everything come to me, and I
played harder than I had in previous
games," Harris said. "Finally, I just
put my foot down and said 'I have to
lead the team, and everything starts
with me.' "
Harris's foot remains firmly plant-
ed. What began against Illinois has
carried through the past three games.
Harris finally got the leadership shoe
to fit even though Michigan hasn't
been able to win games.
"When I'm out there leading, I
understand that I'm one of the best
scorers on the team," Harris said.
"I think when we need a basket, the
whole team is looking at Dion."
This wasn't the case at the begin-
ning of the season, even though
Dion asked for it. Before the season,
Amaker asked each player to write a
paragraph about how he wanted to be
remembered at the end of this season.
Dion wrote he wanted to be the best
player on the team.
Harris got his wish, but at a hefty
price. On this team, Dion is a Ph.D..
surrounded by undergrads.
Nobody questions the heart or
effort of Harris's teammates, but
many question their talent.
If the frontcourt isn't rebounding
consistently, if Sherrod Harrell and
Ron Coleman aren't knocking downi
open 3-pointers and Dani Wohl and.
Ashtyn Bell are struggling to break-
the press, then just how much can
Harris do? How can Harris remain
motivated? Amaker and his team-
mates haven't been able to figure
Because it's up to Dion, the self-
What no one has figured out yet is
if he can consciously control the level
For right now Dion needs to keep
taking mom's advice. She seems like
the best charger.
"You have two more years ahead
of you, a lot can come out of two
more years. So right now, you play
to the best of your ability and go
out there and enjoy yourself at the
same time. If you stay frustrated,
that is not going to help you out on
that court ... Just get it done. It will
Eric Ambinder can be reached at
Magical feeling lifts Blue for 34 minutes
By Jack Herman
Daily Sports Writer
Whether it was senior night, parents'
night or just the excitement of a rare Sat-
urday night game, there was something
different about Michigan's play during
its 78-59 loss to Iowa
"We didn't end up
with a victory, but
our coaching staff,
our team, we really
felt like we had a bit,
of the magic today,
that feeling of exhilaration," Michigan
coach Cheryl Burnett said.
For the first 34 minutes of the game,
it looked as though Michigan could pull
off the upset. The team hustled and cre-
ated plays that it usually does not make.
It managed to force 22 turnovers, the
second-highest total from a Wolverine
opponent this season. It took advantage
of those opportunities, too, scoring 19
points off turnovers - 13 of those in
the first half.
Turnovers were most integral during
Michigan's 16-0 run in the first half.
Solid defense forced a 30-second vio-
lation from the Hawkeyes, and senior
Tabitha Pool converted the opportunity
with a bankshot. Later in that run, soph-
omore Kelly Helvey stole the ball and
took it coast-to-coast for two.
"We worked hard," Burnett said. "We
were able to get out and run a lot early,
and much of our offense was coming
from our defense."
The team also executed much better
on offense. The team had 16 assists and
converted most of its points off them
during the run. Pool's 3-pointer to take
the lead at 17-16 came off of a nice drive
and dish from Helvey.
SHINING STAR: In a span of less than
two minutes during Michigan's 78-59
loss to Iowa on Saturday night, Wol-
verine freshman Jessica Starling scored
eight points and dished out one assist.
What caused this offensive outburst
from a player who had scored just five
points combined in the team's last two
A special visitor in the crowd.
"In the middle of the first half, I looked
over at her mother and smiled because
Jessica always plays very specially when
her mother is there," Burnett said.
Starling brought her best game out to
show her mother. She finished with 11
points, three assists and three rebounds
- each total eclipsing season averages
in its respective category.
CRYSTAL BALL: Although Michigan
kept Iowa's leading scorer Crystal Smith
in check for much of the game, she man-
aged to make her presence felt.
"Crystal didn't score as much tonight,"
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "She only
had 12 points, but I really think Crystal
ran the show really well out for us pretty
well out there."
Burnett assigned Kelly Helvey the
task of covering Smith, and Helvey held
Smith to just 4-of-13 from the field. But
Smith made it count when it mattered.
With just 14 seconds left in the first
half, Smith dribbled behind her back
and drove to the basket for two. It capped
off a 7-0 run for the Hawkeyes and sent
them into halftime down just four.
"Even though she shot below her nor-
mal shooting percentage, I felt she was
an asset out on the floor," Bluder said.
NOTES: With her six steals, Pool moved
into fifth-place all-time in the Michigan
record book. ... Pool's lone block puts
her in sole possession of ninth-place in
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