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January 19, 2006 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-19

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Thursday
January 19, 2006
sports.michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

PRTcSiganBaiig

8A

. ....... .......
- - - - ------

'M' cruises
past 'Cats in
home rout
By Kevin Wright
Daily Sports Writer
Two baskets to close the first half can't end a game,
but Brent Petway's four-point run last night just might
have done Northwestern in.
With one minute remaining in the first half, the Wol-
verines held a slim three-point lead over the Wildcats
when Petway brought down the Crisler Arena roof.
Senior point guard Daniel Horton drove to the basket
and went up for a lay-up. His shot
bounced off the front of the rim N' EE01
and into the waiting hands of Pet- MICHIGAN 68
way. Then, the McDonough, Ga.,
native emphatically slammed the miss home.
Forty seconds later, Petway struck again.
After Lester Abram stole the ball in the corner, he
passed to Horton, who dribbled down the court and
lobbed it in Petway's direction. The 6-foot-8 forward
grabbed the ball and threw it down with one hand.
"I was running up the court, and Dion was running in
front of me," Petway said. "Actually, he stopped running
and told me to go catch the ball. Daniel threw it, and I
was able to catch it."
And just like that, the Wolverines trotted into the
locker room holding a 38-31 lead.
"We pride ourselves on going into the half with the
momentum," Horton said. "We've watched tape numer-
ous times, and when we scored, teams walk off the
floor when they would normally sprint if they had the
momentum. Things like that make a difference"
Even though both dunks accounted for just four points
on the scoreboard, the Wolverines used the momentum
boost to start the second half with an 18-6 run. Michigan
(2-2 Big Ten, 12-3 overall) never looked back and cruised to
a 68-51 home win over the Wildcats (2-3, 9-7) last night.
The Wolverines started strong behind Abram, who
led the way with 10 first-half points, shooting a perfect
5-for-5 from the floor.
After sitting out against Indiana and Purdue and
coming off the bench against Illinois, the Pontiac native
started his first Big Ten game of the season.
And he made it memorable.
From the tip, Abram aggressively drove into the
Northwestern zone. He hit a floater to score the first
points of the game and then followed with a 3-pointer
to give the Wolverines an early 5-0 lead. Throughout the
half, Abram drove through the Northwestern zone and
finished numerous floaters in or near the lane.
Abram finished the night with a team-high 20 points

0

Balance key in
Blue's decisive win

t was like a five-on-five game of
"NBA Jam." Defense was an after-
thought, Brent Petway was throwing
down absurd dunks and a
number of Michigan players
qualified for "on fire" status.
I, for one, was surprised
that the nets didn't start flam-
ing when Lester Abram'sk
shots swished through the
net.
During Big Ten Media
Day in October, Northwest-
ern coach Bill Carmody
downplayed the importance M
of defense. Not such a good
strategy, Bill. Michigan shot SIi
65 percent from the field and Spitl
missed just five shots in the
entire first half. Sure, North-
western's slow-down offense prevents
most teams from amassing ridiculous
point totals. But last night, the Wildcats'
zone "defense" was an embarrassment.
Although Northwestern's defensive
intensity was pathetic, I'll give credit
where credit is due. The Wolverines
capitalized and ran away with a game
for the first time in this young Big Ten
season, cruising to a 68-51 win.
Abram's performance looked more
like a scene from the movie "Pleasant-
ville" than the play of a man dealing
with a nagging toe injury. He drained
all five of his shots in the first half,
including two treys, and scored 20
points on 9-for-12 shooting. The Wild-
cats had no choice but to pick their
poison. Pop out and contest the three,
and Abram would drive for the mid-
range jumper. Give him a cushion, and
Abram would drill the trey.
Dion Harris's resurgent showing was
also encouraging. After two straight
sub-par performances, Harris shot 6-
for-12 and poured in 15 points. Like
Abram, he fearlessly drained long-dis-
tance shots and showed a willingness
to attack the basket when the long "J"
wasn't there.
Michigan wasn't going up against the
best team - and certainly not the best
defense - in the Big Ten, but the Wol-
verines' balance showed just how dan-
gerous they can be. Abram, Harris and

[A
:NC
mzn

Daniel Horton can all shoot the long "J",
beat defenders off the dribble and set
up their teammates for good looks. Few
teams in the nation - let
alone the Big Ten - can
boast a backcourt trio of
that caliber.
Of course, it's hard to ask
Abram, Harris and Horton
to put up big numbers in
every game. After all, there
are only so many shots to
go around. But last night's
game represented a near-
perfect balance. Abram and
TT Harris shared the ball and
GER scored 35 points between
g Fire them. Meanwhile, Horton's
shots weren't falling, so he
deferred to his teammates
and picked up eight assists.
After Michigan opened up a 20-point
lead in the second half - thanks to the
backcourt's performance - I finally
felt like I could rest easy. But I should
have known Michigan would find a
way to make my heart leap into my
throat. With nine minutes to go, Horton
crashed to the floor in obvious pain,
holding his ankle. He limped to the
locker room, but re-entered the arena
minutes later.
Once again, I breathed a sigh of
relief. But immediately after Horton's
return to action, Petway - who threw
down an acrobatic alley-oop slam to
finish the first half - went down, his
face in his hands.
Thankfully, it appears that both
scares were just that. Horton said he'll
practice today, and Petway's tooth injury
was painful but shouldn't keep him out
of any action.
With Horton and Petway presumably
OK and Abram back in the fold, the Wol-
verines enter a critical stretch with their
key pieces in place. Against Minnesota
on the road, and versus Wisconsin and
Minnesota at home, it likely won't come
as easy for Michigan as it did last night.
But for now, it was nice to see the Wol-
verines bury an inferior team.

a

RODRIGO GAYA/Daily
Junior Brent Petway scored six points and had two big dunks in last night's victory over Northwestern

on 9-for-12 shooting.
"Lester was big," Horton said. "He's one of our better
offensive players. When he's able to get into a rhythm and
put points on the board, that really helps us out offensively.
Today he was aggressive and gave us a big boost."
Michigan received a solid defensive effort from
senior Chris Hunter. Amaker assigned Hunter the task
of guarding the always-dangerous Vedran Vukusic, a
6-foot-8 forward who entered the game leading the Big
Ten in scoring.
But Hunter used his lengthy 6-foot-l1 frame to keep
Vukusic from getting many open looks at the basket.
Vukusic finished with 15 points. Hounded by Hunter for
most of the night, he shot just 6-for-17 from the field.
Even though Michigan held a comfortable advan-
tage in the second half, it received a scare when Hor-
ton went down clutching his left ankle. A few minutes

after Horton limped to the locker room, he returned to
the Wolverine bench.
With a little more than seven minutes left in the sec-
ond half, Petway fell to the floor holding his hand over
his mouth. He immediately walked off the court to the
locker room.
Although many Michigan faithful had flashbacks
to last season's injury-plagued campaign, both players
seemed fine after the game.
Following the Wolverines' struggles in their Big
Ten home opener against Purdue, they came out with
a renewed purpose against the Wildcats - especially
on defense.
"We knew that tonight would be a big game," Horton
said. "Teams always try to concentrate on not having a
letdown whether they win or lose. We knew coming into
today that we would have to be ready to play"

- Matt Singer can be reached
at mattsing@umich.edu.

leers power
play not so
powerful
By Mark Giannotto
Daily Sports Writer
EAST LANSING - The power play is supposed to be
your friend.
But for the Michigan hockey team, it was anything but a
pal in Tuesday night's 2-0 shutout loss to Michigan State.
Last weekend, the Wolverines appeared to come out of
their funk when they notched three power play goals in an
exhibition game against the U.S. National Development Pro-
gram Under-18 Team. Prior to those three tallies, Michigan
had been scoreless on its previous 19 power play chances.
But Tuesday, the power play failed to score goals and gave
up one shorthanded goal.
With the Wolverines trailing 1-0, junior alternate captain
T.J. Hensick lost a face-off to Spartan senior David Booth in
Michigan's offensive zone. The puck slid to Michigan State
defenseman Jared Nightingale at the right of his own net. He
then flicked the puck in the air to a streaking Bryan Lerg,
who had snuck behind the Michigan defense.
From there, Lerg had a breakaway on Wolverine goalie
Noah Ruden. Lerg faked a shot, and Ruden bit, allowing
Lerg to backhand the puck past the goalkeeper's flailing
arms.
"(Nightingale) lifted the puck so high that myself and the
defense thought it was just going to be iced," Ruden said.
"Lerg is a skilled player and a fast player, and he can catch
you off guard like that sometimes."
Michigan defensemen Matt Hunwick and Jack Johnson,
and forwards Hensick, Andrew Cogliano and Kevin Porter
were on the ice for the Wolverines at the time of the goal.
That line includes five of Michigan's top-six point scorers.
With the power play performing so poorly, the Michigan
coaching staff was looking for some sort of spark, but in this

TREVOR CAMPBELL/Daily
Michigan's loss dropped them to fifth in the CCHA standings
case it had the opposite effect. There were too many offen-
sive weapons on the ice at one time, and Michigan State took
advantage.
In recent weeks, the Michigan power play has looked stag-
nant, with very little passing into the interior of the offensive
zone. Opposing teams have limited the Wolverines to very
few shots on goal by blocking attempts from the perimeter.
"We're trying to be a little too cute with our passes,"
senior captain Andrew Ebbett said. "We just have to start
shooting the puck. We need to score."
Excluding the exhibition against the U.S. NDTP, Mich-
igan is now scoreless on its last 23 chances with the man
advantage. And with just two days of practice before return-
ing to Yost Ice Arena for tomorrow's game against Bowling
Green, the Wolverines have little time to find the answers to
their power play drought.

°' AMEMOMM'

lw iil-177 "AWARNMEM, 11

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