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January 05, 2006 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily - SportsThursday - January 5, 2006 - 3B

Maybe,for Michigan, it's
time for a change of tune

RUUIGU GAYA/Uaily
Wolverine captain Kelly Helvey must sit out for the
remainder of the season due to a knee Injury.

PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daily
Janelle Cooper's first-half heroics were not enough to
put Michigan ahead of the Spartans.

* Nonexistent rivalry leaves
searching for more

By David Murray
Daily Sports Writer

EAST LANSING - The best rivalries
are ones in which no one team wins con-
sistently, when each game comes down to
the last play, last shot or last second and
when sheer emotion and adrenaline can
carry an underdog
to a win. These ele- MICHIGAN
ments are supposed
to be present in the
rivalry between Michigan and Michi-
gan State. But with their seventh straight
loss to the Spartans, this rivalry has been
diminished for the Michigan women's
basketball team.
In front of Michigan State's second-
largest home crowd ever, a young Michi-
gan team was confused by constant
Spartan full-court pressure and a smoth-
ering 2-2-1 zone defense in a 77-44 loss
Sunday.
"Taking nothing away from Michigan
State, they did a great job with their pres-
sures and what kind of presses and defens-
es they threw out, but at the same time, we
just weren't making very good decisions,"
Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. "We
were dribbling into pressure and traps
when we should have been pivoting and
looking, and we were just looking when
we should have been dribbling a couple of
times."
The Spartans (1-0 Big Ten, 10-3 over-
all) started the game with a 6-0 run. The
Wolverines scored their first basket with

17:03 left in the first half when sophomore
Krista Clement drained a 3-pointer from
the right wing. Clement's basket sparked
an 11-4 Michigan run led by sophomore
Janelle Cooper, who scored eight straight
points for the Wolverines.
But the 11-10 lead Michigan held
with 10:48 left in the first half was the
closest it would come to a win. Trailing
by just one point, the Spartans turned
their pressure into another gear. The
suffocating Spartan press forced five
turnovers over the Wolverines' next six
possessions, and the 11-10 lead became
a 21-11 hole.
Michigan (0-2, 6-8) was able to cut
the deficit to four behind Cooper's strong
first half performance. Cooper's floating
jumper in the lane and third trey of the
half, along with a 3-pointer by freshman
Carly Benson from the top of the arc,
pulled Michigan to 23-19 with 6:57 left in
the first.
"Janelle Cooper in the first half really
had the will to win," Burnett said. "She
offensively carried us."
Despite Cooper's solid work at the
offensive end, the Michigan State pressure
continued to haunt the Wolverines on their
own end. Michigan turned the ball over
eight more times to end the half, fueling a
13-4 Michigan State run over the closing
minutes.
Michigan came out of the break cold,
missing eleven of their first twelve shots,
which allowed the Spartans to go on a
14-2 run to start the second half and all

but dismiss any chance of a Wolverine
comeback. But Michigan wouldn't give
up without a strong fight, and in the final
14 minutes, the Spartans outscored the
Wolverines by just six points.
"One of the only things that our coach-
ing staff was disappointed with was, with
about 13 minutes to go, we thought we
looked a little bit shell-shocked," Burnett
said. "We want to take pride in the fact
that we are going to compete until the
ending buzzer. I thought late in the game
we came back and competed well again."
The Spartan press forced 29 turn-
overs, but the Wolverines struggled to
establish an offensive flow even when
they broke the press. They shot just 32
percent.
Michigan also had difficulty rebound-
ing on the defensive end, giving up 24
offensive rebounds to the Spartans that
led to 30 second-chance points.
Janelle Cooper was one of the few
bright spots for the Wolverines, pouring
in a career high 15 points off a 6-of-li
shooting performance, hitting three from
beyond the arc.
"I'm not really worried about the career
high," Cooper said. "It was just the fact
that we lost. I'm not really worried about
the points that I'm scoring or anything
like that."
Benson chipped in nine points and five
rebounds for the Wolverines.
Michigan will continue to try to get
its first Big Ten win tonight at 7 p.m. at
Crisler Arena against Iowa.

SAN ANTONIO - I had heard
the motto a half dozen times
before. After each of Michi-
gan's five losses this season, one (or
usually more) of the key players have
talked about why Michigan finished
- or didn't finish - yet another
game a few points short of a victory.
Tight end Tyler Ecker after a 23-
20 loss to Wisconsin: "Obviously,
we're having a hard time finishing
right now, and that is something we
need to fix."
Linebacker David Harris following
a 23-20 loss to Minnesota: "We just
didn't finish."
Quarterback Chad Henne on a 25-
21 loss to Ohio State: "This year, we
didn't finish some of the games we
should have."
So it didn't surprise me to hear
running back Mike Hart - sur-
prisingly jovial for one of the first
guys to come out of what must have
been an almost deadly silent locker
room - say the team lost because it
couldn't finish the game.
"That's been our motto all year,
and we just didn't do it," Hart said.
"That's all I can say, we didn't do it."
He laughed as he said it, probably
because he realized how ridiculous it
sounded.
"We worked on it. We worked on
it every day."
He pleaded with us to believe him.
And I did. For a little while.
I thought back to the Minnesota
game - the Gophers turned out a
60-yard run in the final minute when
all they wanted to do was run out the
clock and play for overtime.
I reminisced about the final
seven minutes of the Ohio State
game, when Troy Smith led the
Buckeyes on two full-field drives to
steal a victory.
Even in games that it won, Michi-
gan found ways to gag a little bit at
the end - Iowa drove 74 yards in
2:42 to kick a game-tying field goal
and send the game into overtime;
Michigan State similarly returned a
fumble 74 yards to tie the game with
seven minutes to go. Finishing is the
obvious answer.
But this is not about obvious.
Football - with its 22 players,
dozens of defensive schemes and
hundreds of offensive plays - is
not about obvious. And even though
finishing off teams in close games
is important, starting strong has as
much of an impact.
"Like always, it always comes down
to the last ending of the game," junior
LaMarr Woodley said after the lat-

TAN
HERBERT
The SportsThursday
Column
est poor finish - the 32-28 loss at
the hands of Nebraska in this year's
Alamo Bowl - and one that fittingly
ended Michigan's worst season since
I was a two-year-old toddler. "And
you hate for it to come down to that,
because it can go both ways."
Woodley drilled it. While every-
one else was talking about the last 11
minutes, Michigan's star defensive
end realized that it was the whole
game that mattered.
"You have to know how to finish
a team early," Woodley said. "You
don't want it to go down to the fourth
quarter. You don't want it to go down
to the last minutes. You want to have
the game won before the fourth quar-
ter even begins. You want to take the
other team's heart before it comes
down to that."
Wow. What a realization. You
mean Michigan should have been
winning by more than zero points at
halftime? Maybe it wasn't just the last
two Huskers' drives that put them up
32-28 with four and a half minutes
left. Maybe it was also the drive that
tied the game at 14 with two minutes
left in the first half. The truth is that
the Cornhuskers - 11-point under-
dogs - shouldn't have been in this
game from the beginning.
Great teams finish off weaker
opponents.
At home against Minnesota,
another weaker team, Michigan
started the game without any kind
of inspiration. The Wolverines' first
drive was a 70-yard effort, but it
failed in the red zone and Michigan
settled for a 23-yard field goal. After
ending the first quarter with a huge
three-point lead, the Wolverines
gave it right back to the Gophers in
the second quarter. So 20 minutes
into that game, Michigan was tied
with an inferior team. It might have
been the 61-yard run at the end of
the game that broke the Wolverines'
backs, but they were paralyzed right

from the start.
Great teams take advantage of
opportunities.
Against Ohio State, in maybe the
biggest game of the year, Michigan
was given all the opportunities it
could ask for. Former Heisman con-
tender Ted Ginn Jr. got spooked,
fumbling two punts in the third
quarter and basically handing the
ball and the game to the Wolverines.
But Michigan couldn't take advan-
tage. The team trailed 9-0 halfway
through the second quarter and 12-10
midway through the third - after
Ginn's fumbles.
Sure, the Wolverines couldn't fin-
ish the game - they gaveup two
touchdowns in the last seven min-
utes. But they couldn't start it either.
After getting the Buckeyes into a
third-and-13 situation on the opening
series, Michigan gave up a 15-yard
pass and went on to surrender an 80-
yard drive and a touchdown. Ohio
State started the game up six.
Great teams start and finish
games.
In the game against Notre Dame
- the first of five losses this season
- the Wolverines actually put togeth-
er a pretty strong ending. Maybe, if
they hadn't started the game down 14-
3, they would have had a chance. In
the first half, Michigan had five first
downs compared to Notre Dame's
14. Fifty-one first-half rushing yards
(coupled with three points) might
have sealed Michigan's fate early.
Great teams start and finish seasons.
In each of the five seasons that
I've been at Michigan (and even for
one before I got here), the Wolver-
ines have lost their first road game
of the year. This year, they even lost
a home game to Notre Dame before
traveling, and losing, to Wisconsin.
They haven't had much luck finish-
ing seasons either. Michigan has
won just one of the last five bowl
games it's played in and one of the
last five games against Ohio State
- the last regular season game
every year.
But maybe LaMarr Woodley's logic
applies here too. Maybe if the Wol-
verines started the season on a strong
note, the rest of the games would
take care of themselves. A little bit of
momentum goes a long way.
"You have to have a whole differ-
ent attitude next year," Woodley said.
And maybe Michigan needs a new
motto.

Helvey-less Wolverines
forced to find new spark

- Ian Herbert can be reached
at iherbert@umich.edu.

By Ian Robinson
Daily Sports Writer
EAST LANSING - Underclass-
men need to provide upperclassman-
like leadership.
The women's basketball program
announced that junior Kelly Helvey, the
team's most veteran player, will sit out the
rest of the season with a right knee injury
that requires surgery. The Toledo native
suffered the injury on Dec. 9 during the
first half of the game at Washington
when she collided with another player.
The team will have an active roster of
exclusively freshmen and sophomores for
the rest of the season.
The 5-foot-l1 forward was a spark
plug for the team at both ends of the floor.
Whether it was a deflection, diving on a
loose ball or knocking down a jumper
with the shot clock running out, Helvey
was willing to do anything to help the
team succeed.
"There is no question that every day
and every game, she worked harder than
any player we have," Michigan coach
Cheryl Burnett said.
Before her injury, Helvey began to
emerge as a reliable scoring threat and
rebounder as well, averaging 94 points
and 5.1 rebounds per game, and notching

three double-double performances. In her
penultimate game, she scored a career-
high 30 points in the 77-59 win over the
University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
"Her consistency this year has been
phenomenal," Burnett said.
In the five games since her injury,
Helvey's spot in the starting five has been
filled by sophomore captain Krista Clem-
ent and freshman Jessica Minnfield, who
were part-time starters before the injury.
But no player has been able to fill the
statistical categories or provide the intan-
gibles that Helvey brought to the gym.
"Kelly gave a lot to us," sophomore
Janelle Cooper said. "Not just one person
can take her spot."
Cooper has stepped up her offen-
sive game in Helvey's absence with
double-digit points in all five games,
including a career-high 15 points
against Michigan State.
On the boards, no single player has
shouldered the burden that Helvey left.
Without Helvey in the lineup, no Wolver-
ine has tracked down 10 caroms in a single
game. In her nine games, Helvey reached
the 10-rebound mark three times.
Burnett believes that filling Helvey's
void will be a full team effort.
"There is nobody that is going to
replace her, we all have to pick up the

slack and take the leadership role," Bur-
nett said.
The players showed their willingness
to sacrifice for the team effort in Sunday's
game loss to the Spartans by diving on
every loose ball and forcing numerous
jump balls, but that is just part of the effort
required to fill the gap left by Helvey.
With Helvey in the lineup, Michigan
was 4-5. Since the injury, the team is 2-3.
Helvey was unavailable for comment.
UNEXPECTED RECOGNmON: Although
Michigan has not boasted a record
above .500 this season, it received votes
in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top
25. During the week of Dec. 19-25 the
Wolverines received 15 votes and were
the second team outside the top 25. Last
week, Michigan received one vote.
CONFERENCE HONORS, AGAIN: Sophomore
Ta'Shia Walker received the Big Ten Con-
ference Player of the Week award Dec.26
after she scored a career-high 32 points in
68-60 win over St. Bonaventure.
Walker also dished out a career-high
six assists in the game and grabbed nine
rebounds. Walker is the second Michigan
player to receive the award this season.
Freshman Stephany Skrba won the
first conference player of the week award
following her 19-point performance
against St. Francis Nov. 12.

00
Ie
OO
All clinics are held at the Intramural Sports Building.

EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY,
ConcmmoraLing the life of
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
JUStC
M jus.ic
Friday, Jan. 13
Fifth Annual Color of Drums: Progress Through Poetry
8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.), Pease Auditorium
Saturday, Jan. 14
Hip-Hop Explosion Talent Competition
7:30 p.m., Pease Auditorium

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4
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a

Monday, Jan. 16
Step, Look, Listen and Breakfast:
Bringing the Past into the Present
8:30-10 am., McKenrny Ballroom

Concurrent Sessions
10-11:35 a.m., McKenny Union
25th Annual President's Luncheon
Noon-1:30 p.m., L.akeshore Ballroom, Ypsilanti Marriott

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