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October 31, 2005 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-31

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8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - October 31, 2005 ,




Basketball teams getting ready for tipoff
'M' looks to guards for successful season

By Scott Bell
Daily Sports Writer
CHICAGO - Last year, the Big
Ten had its fair share of representa-
tion at the Final Four. Among the sea
of North Carolina's blue and Louis-
ville's red was Illinois' orange and
Michigan State's green. The jersey
colors may have clashed; the style of
play that brought those teams to the
NCAA Tournament did not. All four
teams - especially the two Big Ten
teams - had the one thing in com-
mon: good perimeter play.
"I think basketball will always go
how the guards go," Michigan State
coach Tom Izzo said. "The day of the
Georgetown (big man dominance) is
over because there are none of those
guys left in college basketball."
The importance of perimeter play
seemed to be one of the major themes
at this year's Big Ten Media Day held
yesterday in Chicago. While Izzo's
Spartan squad looks primed for anoth-
er Final Four run - his backcourt core

of Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown and
Drew Neitzel remains intact - defend-
ing Big Ten champion Illinois hopes to
rebuild what it once had. Big Ten Pre-
season Player of the Year Dee Brown
returns as the lone backcourt player
left from the Illini's run to the cham-
pionship game last year. Luther Head
left due to graduation, and Deron Wil-
liams decided to forgo his senior year
for the NBA.
"Anytime you lose players like
Deron and Luther, it's going to be
hard" Weber said. "Our expectations
aren't what they were last year, but
they're still high. Michigan State is
the best team, hands down. But aside
from them, I think we're right in the
thick of things for spots two through
eight. It depends on what teams can
step up."
With second place and the subse-
quent spots that follow declared wide
open in the tough Big Ten conference
this year, it appears that whoever can
best emulate last year's equation for
success could be on the fast track to

a solid conference finish.
That formula could very well be
exactly what this year's Michigan
men's basketball team is tooled for.
With redshirt junior Lester Abram
returning from injury and senior
Daniel Horton back after battling
offcourt issues, junior Dion Harris
will have two others to complement
him in the backcourt.
"I think with those three kids,
you're looking at three veteran
perimeter players - guys that have
been able to perform at moments
throughout their careers," Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker said. "We
need all three of them to perform."
Expect Amaker's challenge to be
met with open arms. Abram was
the team's leading scorer during his
sophomore year, and Horton's ability
to take over a game has been shown
numerous times throughout his three-
year career. The talent that Michigan
possesses is not in question. Weber
said the Wolverines can stand toe to
toe with anyone in the league.

"I think Michigan has as much
talent as anybody," said Weber, last
year's consensus national coach of the
year. "They had so many off-the-court
issues and injuries, now it's just wheth-
er or not they can put it all together."
Michigan also has sophomore Ron
Coleman to aid its backcourt. Cole-
man saw significant minutes during
his freshman year while filling the
void left by Abram and Horton, who
was out because of legal trouble.
The rest of the Big Ten certainly
is not lacking in strong backcourts.
Iowa boasts senior guard Jeff Horner
to aid a strong Hawkeye bunch that
returns four starters. Minnesota's
senior guard Vincent Greer comes
into the season as a member of the
preseason All-Conference team.
But Amaker is confident in his own
"I like to think that we have our
perimeter intact," Amaker said. "If
we have Horton, Harris and Abram,
we will be able to compete with the
other top perimeters in the league."

Maize-Blue scrimmage ends in overtime

By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Writer

"Healthy, happy and hungry."
Michigan men's basketball coach Tommy Amaker
guaranteed the fans at Crisler Arena after Saturday's
Maize and Blue scrimmage that his team would aspire
towards those three goals in the upcoming season.
After a single 20-minute period, the Maize needed
a three-minute overtime to edge the Blue 53-50.
Dividing the Michigan roster into the two squads,
the Blue started seniors Daniel Horton and Chris
Hunter, junior Courtney Sims, sophomore Ron Cole-
man and freshman Jevohn Shepherd while senior
Graham Brown, juniors Dion Harris, Lester Abram
and Brent Petway and freshman Jerret Smith took the
court first for the Maize.
The Blue used defensive pressure to notch the first
two points of game.
After Hunter stole the ball on a trap at the top of
the key, he raced down the sideline and saw Shepherd
streaking to the basket on the opposite side. Hunter
lobbed an alley-oop to Shepherd, but the freshman
wasn't able to control the ball and missed the layup.
Hustling after the ball, Shepherd stole it back and
dished it to Sims, who put in a fadeaway jumper from
the baseline.
Unfazed by the early flurry of defensive aggressive-
ness, the Maize quickly took the lead. Harris drove to
the foul line and bounced a pass around a defender

to a wide-open Lester Abrams who drained the three
pointer to give the Maize the advantage - much to
the crowd's pleasure.
"It felt really good (to get back in front of the
crowd)," Abrams said. "I missed it a lot last year,
and I can't wait for the first game this year so that
I can see the real crowd that's going to be here. I
don't know how I'm going to feel that day, but I
just can't wait for it to come."
As the game progressed into the late stages, the
score remained close with each team playing stout
defense while attempting to gain the advantage.
With just under 10 seconds left on the clock, Brown
scored on a bank shot from the left block to give the
Maize a two-point lead. Quickly inbounding the
ball, Horton dribbled down the court, pulling up at
the top of the key to take a three to win the game. As
the senior shot, Petway bumped him and the referee
called the foul, providing Horton with a chance to end
the game with three shots from the line.
After making the first, Horton flicked up the sec-
ond shot, and the ball rolled around and out of the bas-
ket. Clapping his hands together in disgust, Horton
refocused and converted the last free throw attempt to
tie the game at 41.
In the extra session, Abram started the Maize
attack. Jumping in front of a pass to the wing, the
junior pushed the ball up the court and passed to Har-
ris who was fouled going up for a layup. The junior
drained both foul shots, notching a two-point lead for

the Maize.
The highlight play of the overtime period came
when Harris drove the ball to the middle of the key.
While looking at the corner, he threw a no-look pass
to Petway - who had drifted under the basket and Pet-
way finished - with a crowd-electrifying slam.
While the scrimmage was mainly geared toward
the fans, the Wolverines used the competition to work
on their new style of offense.
Throughout the game, each team took every oppor-
tunity to push the ball up the court and create fast-
break opportunities. The up-tempo style allowed the
Wolverines to force the issue and try to make things
happen offensively.
"One of our emphases this year is to push the ball,"
Horton said. "In the Big Ten, you have to try and get
as many easy baskets as you can because it's so hard
to score in a half court set"
The scrimmage also allowed the Michigan fresh-
men to acquire a glimpse of the college basketball
atmosphere. Both Shepherd and Smith played a
majority of the minutes for their respective teams.
"This is a learning lesson for me," Smith said.
"The guys have helped me a lot to get my confidence.
It helped me a lot to know that these people support
Notes: Doubling as a hurricane-relief event, the
Maize and Blue scrimmage raised a total of $960
towards the Hurricane Katrina reliefefforts. Fans were
asked to donate a $1 when they entered the arena.


Jerret Smith started in the Maize and Blue scrimmage. The freshman saw substantial
minutes In the intrasquad dual.

Freshmen called on
to lead 'M' in Big T

Michigan State,


Ohio State remain
conferenCe favorites

"Do not get lazy on your pumps, do not get lazy
on your pivots," coach Cheryl Burnett yelled from
the center of Crisler Arena early Saturday afternoon
during the first few minutes of the Wolverines' open
"Don't get lazy." That's certainly easier said
than done. Inevitably, one has to wonder, will the
Michigan women's basketball team - with just
one upperclassman - get lazy come January? By
then, the team will be midway through conference
play, and this year's Big Ten is nothing to sneeze at.
Perennial powerhouses No. 2 Michigan State, No. 9
Ohio State and No. 11 Minnesota all play Michigan
twice, giving the Wolverines more than enough to
"We look at (the season) one game at a time, but
in the back of our minds we know we have a really
tough season ahead because of all of the competi-
tors in the Big Ten," junior Kelly Helvey said. "But
we are just going to go in focused and just keep
playing our hardest and that's all we can do. And
who knows, the outcome could be on our side."
So, maybe pessimism isn't the best way to
approach this season after all. Maybe the Wolver-
ines have gained more during the offseason than
they have lost - something that would certainly
say a lot about the team's new batch of freshman.
With the departure of Tabitha Pool, Michigan's
leading scorer as well as freshman Becky Flippin
who, transferred to Division II preseason favorite
Drury University, the Wolverines need offensive
productivity and will be looking toward the fresh-
men to help fill that void.
Freshman Jessica Minnfield will most likely
come into the Michigan starting lineup as an offen-
Big Ten Trouble?
The Wolverines struggled last year in the Big Te
winning just once in 16 tries - with a 63-61 win
against Indiana on Jan. 23. Michigan will face an
tough year in the Big Ten - three of the teams i
the conference are in the preseason top 15. Her
It~%[ a +n nh .- O ntnnc N 0M inhidnn-

sive specialist, while classmates Stephany
Skrba, Ashley Jones and Melinda Queen
give Michigan the added height and pres-
ence on defense they were lacking last
"We're really excited," Burnett said of
the upcoming season. "We just gained so
much athleticism and size. Our expecta-
tion is to press a lot more defensively.
We are now going to be able to do a
lot more of the defensive things that we
want to do and were unable to do in
the past."
Midway through the practice, as
she walked to pick up a ball that had
rolled to the bleachers, Helvey jok-
ingly said, "Maybe I'll just take a seat
right now," signaling to the front row
of seats. Letting out a light laugh, she
knows better. As the team's only upper-
classman, Helvey's 10 teammates will look to
her for insight into the rigors of the lengthy
During the next water break, she remained on
the court, working out some lingering kinks
to the team's spread offense with Burnett. By
the time they had finished reviewing the play,
the short recess was over and Helvey's water
bottle remained untouched. A defensive spe-j
cialist, Helvey will need to improve on her
6.1 points-per-game from last season if the
team is even going to have a chance in the j
Big Ten.
"There is no question that Helvey is one
our best defensive players and one of our
hardest workers," Burnett said. "And in
our program it doesn't matter what age
you are, if you are the best defensive play-
er and you are the hardest worker, you are
going to be one of the leaders."
Pulling on their shorts and
dragging their feet, the Wol-
verines were clearly tired as
in they headed into the weight
n room to finish practice. Maybe
nother they will be able to fight
r's through the fatigue this time,
with the excitement of the new Y

By Ian Robinson
Daily Sports Writer

CHICAGO - A year has
passed, but it seems that
nothing has changed.
Last year's Big Ten co-
champions - Ohio State and
Michigan State - were picked
to finish No. 1 and No. 2, respec-
tively, once again.
Buckeyes' coach Jim Foster -
who was named conference coach
of the year last year - worded it
best at yesterday's Big Ten Media
Day when he said: "We finished
14-2 (in the Big Ten) last year and
lost only one starter. It's not like I'm
waking up and hearing something
that I didn't expect to hear."
Juniors Jessica Davenport -
Big Ten player of the year - and
Brandie Hoskins contributed to the
United States' gold-medal winning
performance at the World Univer-
sity Games.
Michigan State - which reached
the national championship game for
the first time in school history -
should challenge for the conference
crown this season as well. The team
will have to adjust to losing two of
its top-four scorers from last season,
including WNBA champion Kristin
Wooden Award finalist Lind-
say Bowen and Kodak/WCBA All-
American Liz Shimek will lead the
Spartans, but the pair should receive
support from a talented recruiting
class headlined by McDonald's All-
American Tiffanie Shives.
Minnesota and Purdue were
picked to round out the upper ech-
elon of the Big Ten.

in Minnesota history with 176, lad
The Boilermakers return four aP
their top five scorers from a squad
that reached the second round of the
NCAA tournament before losing
to Tennessee. Last season markect
the first time in head coach Kristin
Curry's tenure that her team failed
to earn 10 Big Ten wins.
The consensus fifth team in the
conference is Iowa. After going
through the nonconference sched4
ule undefeated, the Hawkeyes went
8-8 in the conference and failed tax
make the NCAA Tournament. But
showed the strength of the Big Ten
by reaching the WNIT Final Four.
The Hawkeyes return leading scot-
er, Crystal Smith, who averaged
16.8 points per game and Big-Ten
All-freshman team member Krista
VandeVenter who registered a teai
high of 7.6 rebounds per game.
The rest of the conference is wide
open with schools losing students to
graduation and other coaches estab-
lishing their programs with players
they recruited.
"From six through 11, anything
can happen," first-year Indiana
coach Sharon Versyp said. "Every-
one's goal is to be in the top five or
six teams in the conference so you
can make the postseason."
Although the rankings predict
the Wolverines to finish 10th in the
conference - ahead of Northwest-
ern - many of the coaches around
the conference believe that the Wol-
verines could be a sleeper team.
"With (coach Cheryl Burnett)
coaching players that she recruited,
I see Michigan as the most improved
team in the Big Ten," Foster said.

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