8A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 24, 2005
Blue falls apart at
start of second half
By Matt Singer
Daily Sports Writer
EAST LANSING - The Michigan wom-
en's basketball team hangs close to a pow-
erful Big Ten team
early, hoping to earn Mj ' j" 4
a shocking upset vic-
tory. Then, inevitably,
it happens. The opposition explodes for a huge
run, the Wolverines collapse and the final
score tilts heavily in favor of their opponents.
This same pattern has plagued Michigan
all season long. And last night's game against
No. 6 Michigan State represented the ugliest
The Wolverines (1-14 Big Ten, 5-21 overall)
at least competed with the Spartans in the first
half, going into the break trailing 34-21. But
coming out of halftime, Michigan State (14-2,
25-3) put the pedal to the metal. It scored the first
21 points of the.second half, burying Michigan
with intense pressure defense, dominant inside
play and soft shooting from the perimeter. Even
after Michigan sophomore Kelly Helvey finally
ended the run seven minutes into the half, the
Spartans kept rolling. When it was all said and
done, Michigan State came away with a domi-
nating 77-34 victory and celebrated its second-
ever Big Ten Championship in front of 8,904
fans at the Breslin Center
"In the first half, we stayed within shout-
ing distance," Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett
said. "But the second half was a totally differ-
Michigan State senior Kelli Roehrig was the
catalyst behind the Spartans' second-half explo-
sion. Eleven seconds into the half, she banked
in an eight-footer to get the Spartans rolling,
and she didn't stop there, pouring in 10 points
during Michigan State's early second-half run.
Roehrig finished with a game-high 21 points
on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. The 6-foot-
4 center's physical play in the paint enabled her
to pull down a game-high 10 rebounds, six of
which came on the offensive end. The rest of
the Spartans followed suit, and they finished
with a 50-31 rebounding edge.
"Big girls don't intimidate our team,"
Michigan freshman Ta'Shia Walker said. "I
think we just had to go out there and just be
Michigan State matched its intensity on
the glass with similar effort on the defensive
end. The Spartans came at the Wolverines
with a variety of zones and presses, all of
which gave Michigan fits.
"They upped their pressure; they changed
their presses," Burnett said. "We could never
get into a flow offensively."
Helvey and senior co-captain Tabitha
Pool - Michigan's two best penetrators
- had difficulty driving the lane to set up
open scoring looks. Pool, especially, was
thrown off by Michigan State's swarming
defenders. Coming into the game averaging
over 17 points, Pool was held to just seven
points on 2-for-14 shooting.
"Tabitha probably hasn't gotten more than
three dribbles for the last 10 ball games because
she has everybody running at her," Burnett
said. "But it's our job as a coaching staff, and
Freshman Janelle Cooper and the Wolverines allowed a 22-0 run to start the second half.
certainly as a team, to figure out what to do
when your leading scorers are taken out of the
The Wolverines' overall offensive output
was downright ugly, and they were frequently
forced to hoist contested long-range jumpers
with the shot clock winding down. Michigan
shot a season-low 26.3 percent from the field,
including an abysmal 3-for-21 shooting per-
formance from beyond the arc. No Wolverine
scored in double figures.
"We're not the only ones (the Spartans)
have stifled," Burnett said. "It's harder in late
conference play, when you've already played
somebody. We simply have a lot of weaknesses
The Spartans scored the game's first six
points and set the defensive tone right from
the get-go, forcing Michigan to miss its first
six shots. But the Wolverines would not let
the game get out of hand early on. Three
minutes into the game, freshman co-captain
Krista Clement drilled a jumper from just
inside the three-point line, putting Michigan
on the board for the first time. The bucket
set the trend for the first half. Each time the
Spartans went on a mini-run, the Wolverines
would respond with a timely basket to keep
the game competitive. But the dam broke the
moment the second-half whistle blew.
p osition swap
By Ryan Sosin
Daily Sports Writer
Over the last three weekends, one Wolverine's name has been
unusually prevalent on the score sheet. Thanks to an assist in each
series, junior goalie Al Montoya was seventh on the team in help-
ers during that span. But as Montoya begins to establish himself as
an offensive threat, senior forwards Eric Nystrom and Milan Gajic
are both trying to make their case between the pipes.
As has been a tradition after practice a couple times a week,
a forward dons a goalie glove and blocker and tries to stop
Nystrom is no stranger to the goal, having spent some time there
during summer workouts. But the senior captain wasn't really sure
if his team would be better suited with him in goal and Montoya
bearing down on opposing team's net.
"I'm a way better goalie than he is (at forward); he can't even
skate," Nystrom said jokingly. "(Montoya's) pretty good out there
at forward, but I don't know - I'm a pretty good goalie."
According to Gajic, his own style closely resembles a butterfly
while Nystrom is more of a stand-up goalie. Both, in fact, look the
same between the net. They hunch over and try to protect their cup
from being cracked by a shot.
"(Nystrom) can't really do the butterfly," Montoya said.
Despite his seemingly unorthodox style, Gajic has the self-con-
fidence and quick glove needed to at least be the team's fourth-
"I think I can do a lot of better things in the net than (Montoya)
can," Gajic joked. "(I have better) overall goaltending prowess."
As the competition begins to boil, Nystrom pointed to a piece of
equipment he wears that makes him more of a goalie than Gajic.
"(Gajic) doesn't wear the goalie skates, which is kind of cheap,"
Nystrom said. "The goalie skates make it so much harder."
But Gajic said he would wear the skates if called upon to prove
he was the best choice at goal.
Freshman Kevin Porter, who is usually out on the ice at the end
of practice when the seniors mind the crease, has scored plenty
of goals on both his teammates. Without much hesitation, Porter
pegged Gajic as the stronger of the two candidates between the
"(Nystrom's) not as quick," Porter said. "Gajic has got quick
For his part, Montoya said the offensive thunder hasn't come
because of a drastic change in his game. After going from two
career assists to five in a manner of 15 days - Nystrom has three
assists and Gajic has just one over the same period - the Wolver-
ine junior merely tips his cap to the guys in front of him.
"I've been doing the same thing as long as I can play the puck,"
Montoya said. "Sometimes you get (assists), sometimes you
Even though the clock has almost run out on their goalie careers
before it has even truly started, the imaginary competition for
fourth-string goalie has helped Nystrom and Gajic gain an appre-
ciation for what Montoya does behind them day in and day out.
"It's hard," Gajic said. "You don't know when to go down, when
to get up. It's hard especially when guys are in front of you. You
don't know when they are going to tip it, whether they are going to
tip it. ... It's really difficult."
Montoya, Noah Ruden, Mike Mayhew, Gajic and Nystrom. Not
a bad group to pick from.
Walker bounces back from,
By Jack Herman
Daily Sports Writer
EAST LANSING - For the first time in her collegiate
career, Michigan freshman and Lansing native Ta'Shia
Walker returned home to play basketball.
In the first half, it looked as though the
return wasn't going to be too kind, but it
turned around a bit after halftime.
Walker got into foul trouble and played
just four minutes in the first half. She ended
the half with just two points and a rebound,
$ ° '.
Walker got going by the end of the half, and, with 5:05 left
in the game, she hit a running, off-balance shot from the top
of the key for her seventh and eight points.
SIZE DOES MATTER: As is the common theme this season,
the Wolverines came into this game at a major size disadvan-
tage. Michigan State carries six players over six feet tall, and,
as usual, it showed.
"Michigan State did a good job," Walker said. "They knew
we're a small team, and they tried to emphasize on that."
The Spartans out-rebounded Michigan 51-30. Michigan
State grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and converted them
into 25 points.
Even the undersized Spartans got into the fray. On one
play in the first half, the 5-foot-9 sophomore Victoria Lucas-
Perry drove baseline to the basket before missing a layup.
Despite her size, she grabbed her own rebound.
Michigan State dominated in the post as well, scoring 38
points in the paint. The Spartans' strong play down low also
allowed them to get to the free throw line 21 times.
"Part of our half-court defense that I think we really strug-
gled with, and that they succeeded at, was getting the ball to
the post, and, with that, getting some really easy opportuni-
ties," Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said.
ough first half
CROWD EFFECTS: Senior night appeared to boost Michigan
in its 78-59 loss to Iowa last Saturday, and last night, the Wol-
verines had to deal with the boost Michigan State received on
its own special night.
A crowd of 8,904 people packed the Breslin Center, its
fourth-largest total ever. It made sure to harass the Wolver-
ines after every airball they shot and tried to confuse them
as the 30-second clock ran down. By the end of the game,
the crowd was thanking its seniors and chanting "Big Ten
Champions" in support of the Spartans.
"I know that in great places in women's basketball, it
gives a great home court advantage," Burnett said. "But
at the same time, I think players would rather play where
there's a great crowd. We try to coach to say, 'it doesn't
matter where you're playing, who you're playing, or what
kind of court you're playing' - it's still the same game
and we expect the same kind of effort and the same kind
NOTES: The 77-34 defeat is the largest margin Michigan
has lost by this year ... Michigan State scored as many points
in the first half, 34, as the Wolverines scored the entire game
... Michigan shot just three free throws the entire game, its
lowest total all season.
but, by the end of the game, she had scored eight points - a
team high - and grabbed four boards.
"I got in foul trouble early, and it kind of took me out of the
first half," Walker said. "When the second half came, I just
tried to go out there and play hard."
At the outset of the second half, it didn't seem as though
anything would pan out for Walker. A few minutes in, Walker
missed an open jumper despite being faced up to the basket
from just five feet away. The next time down the court, she
held the ball at the top of the key before throwing an errant
pass toward freshman Becky Flippin.