The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - November 21, 2005 - 3B
By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Writer
Friday night was Jerret Smith's first col-
legiate game - but his performance didn't
When the freshman point guard entered the
game with just under 13 minutes remaining in
the first half, the Wolverines held a tight 13-11
lead. Five minutes later, when Smith returned
to the bench, Michigan had gained a comfort-
able 26-14 advantage.
During his first five minutes of play, Smith
started his night off hot. After senior Graham
Brown snatched an offensive
rebound, he kicked it out to a
ready Smith, who confidently
stroked a 3-pointer.
Then, on the next offensive $
possession, junior Courtney
Sims sealed off his defender
on the left block, and Smith
- at the wing - bounced a pass that led Sims
to the basket for an easy lay-in.
"You're always excited for your first game,
but I wasn't nervous," Smith said. "I was excit-
ed to play with (my teammates who I battle
with in practice)."
Smith returned with six minutes left in the
first half and ignited the crowd with junior Les-
ter Abram's help. After taking an outlet pass
from Sims, Smith looked down the court to
Abram who had leaked down the court. Smith
lobbed the ball to Abram, who slammed it down
and was fouled in the process. He converted the
and-one opportunity, and the Wolverines held a
In the second half, Smith continued his
inspired play and showed his court awareness
on several occasions.
As Smith set up the offense, Abram brought
his defender high to the wing and quickly cut
behind him to the basket. Smith saw the streak-
ing Abram and tossed a bounce pass that Abram
finished with a slam.
Later, Smith stole the ball and pushed it down
the court, looking for an open man. He saw
Sims, who had positioned himself on the oppo-
site block. Smith lobbed the pass up to Sims,
who collected it and converted the lay-in.
The Romulus native finished off his night
with another assist. With the ball in the cor-
ner, Smith drove the baseline, but two Cen-
tral Michigan defenders collapsed on him.
Smith calmly wrapped a bounce pass around
the defenders to a wide-open Sims, who easily
made the lay-up.
"In his first regular-season game as a Wol-
verine, the freshman didn't show any jitters on
the court, scoring eight points and dishing nine
assists while turning the ball over just twice,"
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
"He has an ability to put the ball in a position
Cagers pass first test
with a group effort
en it comes to pure talent, it's
W hard to question what Courtney
Sims brings to the table. With his
long 6-foot-l frame, jumping ability and
general basketball instincts, Sims can take
over games, either by scoring in the post
or by dishing to open teammates when the
On the defensive end, SimsA
can be a terror as well. On one
play during Friday's season-,
opener against Central Michi-
gan, Sims came out near the
foul-line to trap, but the Chip-
pewa made a perfect bounce
pass to a streaking player near
the hoop. Somehow, Sims;
recovered, dashed across the
lane and blocked the shot out M
of thin air. SIN
On Friday night, the junior Spi.
big man also demonstrated
fortable returning to his natural off-guard
position and put in 13 points. Jerret Smith
raised some eyebrows in his first collegiate
game, dishing nine assists and drilling a
couple treys. The freshman's natural quick-
ness and court-savvy were apparent, and I'm
really looking forward to seeing what he can
do as he becomes more polished.
As usual, senior Graham Brown
was all over the place, pulling
down 11 boards.
On paper at least, only Dan-
iel Horton had a disappointing
season opener for the Wolver-
ines. The senior looked stellar
throughout the exhibition season,
averaging 17.5 points a game.
But he never seemed to find his
groove against Central Michigan,
scoring just four points on l-of-4
I really expected to's6e Horton
Freshman Jerret Smith dished out nine assists coming off the bench in his regular-season debut.
where all they need to do is just finish it and
score. He's a very well-liked guy in our locker
room because of that."
A TIME TO SHARE: On the stat sheet, 21 assists
really doesn't outweigh 19 turnovers. But, in
Michigan's case, both these stats showed that
Michigan is growing as a team unit.
After struggling to find and maintain offen-
sive rhythm in the two exhibitions games, the
Wolverines shook off the rust and the pieces
finally fell into place. The Wolverines regis-
tered 21 assists on 29 total field goals.
"We're one big family," Smith said. "We all
have each other's back. If one of us goes to
battle then we all go to battle. The chemistry
on this team is very strong, and I don't think
anyone can come between that right now."
Whether on the fastbreak or in the set offense,
the Wolverines seemed to find the open man
the majority of the time. The Michigan guards
would set up the offense or look to drive and
dish to an open shooter waiting on the wing.
Even though Michigan turned the ball over 19
times, due in large part to its emphasis on run-
ning whenever possible, most of the turnovers
were not caused by Central Michigan pressure.
On several fastbreaks, the Wolverines rushed
passes, causing unnecessary turnovers.
In the second half, the Wolverines had a
three-on-one, but, as Smith took the ball on
the wing, he couldn't corral it and lost it out-
"Certainly, we need to do a better job of valu-
ing the ball," Amaker said.
IN THE ZONE: Central Michigan looked con-
fused and frustrated. On.numerous possessions,
the Chippewas ran the shot clock below 10 and
sometimes below five before they could get a
Part of the reason for Central Michigan's
confusion was the 1-3-1 matchup zone Michi-
gan used throughout the game. With 10:33
remaining in the second half, the Wolverines
came out of a Chippewa timeout in a 1-3-1 zone
setup. Central Michigan struggled to find an
open shot, and Sefton Barrett missed a contest-
ed jump shot.
"I thought the zone was a key for us," Amak-
"I thought that we were able to slow them
down a little bit. They weren't able to drive it
by us as much. It gave us a chance to gather
ourselves and regroup a little bit."
Michigan also utilized half-court traps to
fluster the Chippewa attack. When the Central
Michigan guards would cross half court, they
would be forced to a sideline and then a double-
team would come.
By mixing up its defensive sets, Michigan
forced 16 turnovers and collected seven steals,
which led to several fastbreak opportunities
and easy buckets.
ow dominant he could be offensively,
ing in 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting.
simply had his way down low, display-
dazzling array of post moves to free
elf up for easy buckets. In a particularly
essive two-and-a-half minute stretch
second half, Sims accounted for eight
s, allowing the Wolverines to pull away
eal the lopsided 87-60 final score.
it while Sims dominated parts of the
-, he occasionally displayed the mad-
lg inconsistency that plagued him all
eason. On one play early on, Sims let 6-
7 forward Justin Blevins back him down
for a few seconds, allowing Blevins to
ert an easy layup. Similarly, Sims went
: out of the offensive flow, controlling
ine for a few minutes, and then sitting
for the next few. Without exaggerating,
could have easily put up 30 or more if
ayed active on the offensive end.
course, Sims won't have such an easy
once the tough battles begin. The Cen-
Michigan matchup illustrated a common
>menon in college basketball. Big name
s invite weak mid-major squads into their
for an old-fashioned whooping and an
W.' And it's hard to blame them - too
nonconference losses can doom a team's
ge hopes for the Big Dance.
, Central Michigan wasn't quite the ulti-
test for Sims and the Wolverines. But
first effort against a sub-par opponent,
igan looked strong. With the exception
me generally sloppy play and a couple
ugh patches at the beginning of each
the Wolverines were clicking on all
ders. On both sides of the ball, on the
neter and in the post, the Wolverines'
ed rotation simply overwhelmed the
ns certainly wasn't the only Wolverine
brought his 'A' game to Crisler on Fri-
unior Dion Harris, for one, looked com-
The emergence of a strong p
game aided Smith in the *second h
Forward Graham Brown scored
five points but pulled down 11 boa
Sophomore Ron Coleman - whc
seeing time at power forward beca
sophomore Brent Petway is acade
cally ineligible - found himself o'
for some good looks and got to the 1
on three different occasions.
But the real story was Court
Sims. Save for a fast break on wh
he seemed destined for a dunk onl
have the ball roll off his fingers
over the backboard, the 6-foot-11 S
was unstoppable down low. He sec
20 points against a Chippewa team 1
had no one over 6-foot-8 play m
than three minutes.
"I'm trying to get off to a fast sta
Sims said. "My first two years, I dig
come out fired up from the opening tip after
a suspension sidelined him midway through
last season. Instead, the guard seemed con-
tent to let his teammates pick up the scoring
slack. But I'm not complaining about Hor-
ton's lack of production - Michigan won by
27 points anyway. So don't raise any red flags
on Horton just yet.
While Horton let his teammates take the
spotlight in his comeback, redshirt junior
Lester Abram came out like a bat out of hell
in his big return from last season's shoulder
surgery. Abram said after the game that he
felt like a kid out there - and he looked it.
Usually, Abram lets the game come to
him, naturally working his way into the
offensive flow. But against Central Michigan,
Abram wanted to create his own rhythm. He
scored on a backdoor cut 10 seconds after the
opening tip and never looked back, finishing
with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Even though Abram stayed one step ahead
of Central Michigan throughout, he also
seemed out of control at times - especially
early on. He finished with four turnovers, and
could have easily committed more if a few
bounces went the Chippewas' way.
Overall, though, I was impressed with
Abram's performance. I'll chalk up the slop-
piness to first-game jitters - Abram said he
didn't sleep the night before - and I expect
to see more balanced play from him as the
season goes on.
It's hard to make any significant judg-
ments about a team after its first game
- especially against a pushover squad like
Central Michigan. But it's at least a good sign
that Michigan didn't play down to its oppo-
nents' level. The Wolverines were a vastly
superior team, and for one game, at least,
they played like it.
- Matt Singer canbe reached
ost get off to a real fast start. So I'm try-
alf. ing to keep the pace up and execute and
just just be an inside presence."
rds. The victory should provide a much-
is needed confidence boost for Michigan,
use which travels to Boston University
mi- tomorrow. The Terriers have defeated
pen Wolverines in their last two match-
ine ups. But that streak may be in danger,
and Horton feels the team has more
ney going for it than he can mention in one
y to "Seeing Lester scoring, getting easy
and baskets on the break and seeing Court-
ims ney finishing in the post and Dion
red knockdown jumps and Graham being
that the tough, hard-nose guy he's always
ore been, it's good to see that," Horton
said. "I'm glad to be a part of that and
rt," to see that things finally seem like their
dn't starting to come together."
Continued from page 1B
little concern, saying he was pleased
with Horton's four assists and, more
importantly, the lack of any turnovers
in 27 minutes.
"Obviously, we're going to need him
to score buckets ... but I thought Dan-
iel's floor game and his leadership was
tremendous," Amaker said.
One of the reasons Amaker didn't
need to worry about the absence of
Horton's scoring was freshman Jer-
ret Smith, who looked exceptional at
point guard in the first regular season
game of his college career. He net-
ted eight points and demonstrated his
court vision, dishing out nine assists.
Smith's presence also allowed both
Horton and guard Dion Harris, who
scored 13 points, to focus on playing
Smith lit a fire under the team in the
second half. Again, the Wolverines
started sluggish, and Giordon Watson,
who led the Chippewas with 15 points,
exploded to trim the lead to 11. But
Smith hit a 3-pointer and then found
Abram on a backdoor cut for a dunk on
the next possession to ignite a Michi-
gan 8-0 run that put the game out of
"(Smith's play) didn't surprise me
because, if I say surprised, it means
I didn't expect it," Amaker said.
"I'm pleased. He's played well in
practice. He played fairly well in the
exhibition games. We see the ability
for this kid, and I think people love
playing with him because he's a ter-
By Daniel Bromwich
Daily Sports Writer
Freshman Stephany Skrba tapped the
opening tip to fellow freshman forward
Melinda Queen, who promptly had the
ball taken right out of her hands. After
freshman Jessica Minnfield took a charge
on the other end of the floor to get the ball
back, she too turned the ball over. On
Michigan's next possession, junior Kelly
Helvey's pass intended for Skrba was
just out of Skrba's reach and fell out of
bounds. And after Minnfield and sopho-
more Katie Dierdorf committed consecu-
tive offensive fouls on the team's fourth
and fifth possessions, Skrba committed
The Wolverines had started the game
against Miami (Ohio) yesterday without
even attempting a shot on their first six
Helvey's running jumper on the next
trip down the court broke the streak, but
the first half continued to be an ugly one
for the team. Even though they shot 62
percent from the field in the period, they
aittmnted 16 fewer shots than Miami due
at halftime several times this season.
Against Notre Dame on Friday, Michigan
had 13 turnovers in the first half, and cut
it to eight in the second. It could be attrib-
uted to the youth of the team, but Helvey
thinks part of the chaotic first half was
due to nerves before the first home game.
"I think it was big-time jitters," Helvey
said. "A lot of people were really excited
before the game. I was nervous too, but I
think we calmed down a lot after the first
Helvey had all three of her turnovers in
the first half, but Minnfield led the team
with five in the first period. Even though
she denies any jitters, she was visibly
more settled after the intermission, com-
mitting just one turnover.
"I just had to stay focused and make
short passes," Minnfield said. "I had to be
smart on offense, and I couldn't turn the
ball over anymore. I had the most turn-
overs in the first half, so I needed to come
out and be smart and play like a point
Michigan's crisper second half mark-
edly improved the team's defense. After
allowing the RedHawks 18 first-half
Continued from page 1B
Wolverines went into the locker room down by just seven points
after giving up two three-point shots to Miami's Sarah Hull in the
final 90 seconds of play. During halftime, Burnett addressed the
team's 19 first-half turnovers and the importance of boxing out
and taking shot opportunities away from Miami.
With their newfound focus, the Wolverines grabbed 33 rebounds
in the second half. They were led by junior guard Kelly Helvey's
eight defensive rebounds, but freshman Melinda Queen and Skrba
combined for nine rebounds, while Michigan held Miami (0-1
overall) to just 25 boards in the second half.
"In the second half, we really focused on stopping (them from)
penetrating over ball screens, big-time boxing out and getting the
rebounds and just everyone working together," Helvey said.
In Michigan's 55-45 loss to the Fighting Irish, the Wolverines
were only able to grab a meager 33 rebounds to Notre Dame's
54. Because of the rebound margin, Michigan was unable to capi-
talize on the Irish's 30.5-percent shooting on the night. Though
the Wolverines were able to take the lead with 6:50 to play, Notre
Dame (2-0 overall) continued its zone defense, forcing the Wol-
verines to run down the shot-clock and heave up an off-balance
shot at the last second.
Michigan's defense - which kept it in the game against Notre
Dame - faltered a bit against Miami, allowing the RedHawks to
hit six wide-open 3-pointers throughout the game. Miami hit all its
3-pointers with Wolverines in a trapping defense - the team was
unable to rotate quickly enough to stop Miami's ball movement. But
once the Wolverines switched back into man-to-man, they were able
to control Miami's offense significantly better.
"We kept having one person break down out of our scramble
and not react to the ball, and we would double and we wouldn't
react and then they would get a three," Burnett said. "I made the
conscious decision that out of our scramble we were only going to