February 3, 2006
sports. michigandaily. com
OeRO4TS ga ilu
. ......... . ....
By David Murray
Daily Sports Writer
STATE COLLEGE - It's not always good to be
In close games this season, the Michigan women's
basketball team has fallen victim to a disturbing trend
- holding a lead late in the first half but letting it slip
away in the second.
This time, the Wolverines held a 12-point lead with
13:10 left in the first half - the largest advantage they
have possessed in the Big Ten season. But Penn State
went on a late run during the first MIcaHCAN 62
half, counteracting Michigan's
hot start and giving the Lady
Lions control of the game. That first-half streak pro-
pelled Penn State to a 78-62 victory.
"I was really proud of our players," Michigan head
coach Cheryl Burnett said. "We played hard. We tried
to take them out of some things that they wanted to do.
I thought we played a brilliant first 15 minutes of the
basketball game. Penn State started changing some of
their pressures and getting out and defending better,
and for five minutes, we struggled a bit. I think that
was the major difference in the game."
Michigan's chances looked promising at the start.
On Penn State's first possession, Wolverine freshman
Stephany Skrba stripped the ball from Lady Lion
Adrienne Squire and then took it all the way down the
court for an uncontested lay-up.
The Wolverines (0-10 Big Ten, 6-16 overall) held a
slim 7-6 lead early in the first half. Then, to the dismay
of the 5,429 fans in the Bryce Jordan Center, Michigan
went on a 13-2 tear with guards Janelle Cooper and
Jessica Minnfield combining for nine of those points.
"At that point, we were getting excited to be up by
that much," sophomore forward Katie Dierdorf said.
But the Lady Lions' defense carried them back into
the game. Michigan scored just seven points during
the next nine minutes and its lead fell to five.
The Wolverines became frustrated with the Lady
Lions' full-court pressure and changing defenses, and
it showed in the score. Penn State (4-6, 10-11) strolled
to a 10-point halftime lead, behind a 17-2 run over the
Lady Lions pressure
Blue into submission
By Ian Robinson
Daily Sports Writer
STATE COLLEGE - Can you han-
dle the pressure?
For this year's Michigan women's
basketball team, the answer has usually
Opponents have challenged the Wol-
verines with a full-court press many
times this season, and Michigan hasn't
But when Penn State went to the press
for the first time last night, the guards
broke it with ease, although freshman
Melinda Queen missed a lay-up off a
On other occasions early on, Michi-
gan simply beat the press and ran a half-
Michigan's relative ease at handling
the press represented a welcomed
change of events for a team that turned
the ball over five times before crossing
mid-court in a game at Michigan State
earlier this year.
But as last night's contest wore on,
Penn State's defensive intensity picked
up and Michigan's trouble against the
"That is when we struggle," Michigan
coach Cheryl Burnett said. "(The pres-
sure) was a big difference in the game."
After committing just two turnovers
during the first seven minutes of the
game, the Wolverines had 11 in the last
13 minutes of the first half.
"(Our guards) weren't playing any
defense at all (at the beginning of the
game)," Penn State coach Rene Portland
As the first half progressed, her back-
court's defense improved.
"We went after their guards," Port-
land said. "That's where it starts."
The increased pressure was part of
a 19-2 Penn State run that bridged the
first and second halves. It helped turn a
five-point Michigan lead into a 12-point
advantage for the Lady Lions.
Later on, Penn State used a backcourt
trap that forced Michigan's forwards and
centers to dribble the ball up the court.
This took Michigan out of its offensive
"They had a big kid dribbling it up
the court and that seemed to throw them
off a bit," Portland said.
On one occasion, Penn State's trap
made forward Katie Dierdorf take the
ball up the floor. She looked for fresh-
man Stephany Skrba cutting to the
hoop, but her pass sailed over Skrba's
head and went out of bounds.
Penn State freshman guard Brianne
O'Rourke - who had a career-high
seven steals - was a major factor
in Penn State's ability to disrupt the
Michigan offense. Two of O'Rourke's
takeaways turned into uncontested fast-
break lay-ups, and others led to easy
Once again, the pressure was too
much for the Wolverines to handle.
Stefany Skrba's 10 points and nine rebounds were not enough in the Wolverines' 78-62 loss to Penn State.
first frame's final five minutes.
Michigan looked as deflated in the first few minutes
of the second half as it did in the last minutes of the
first, and Penn State quickly turned a 41-31 lead into
a 46-31 lead.
"We started a little bit slow in the second half,
which, unfortunately, we have a habit of doing,"
Burnett said. "We need to get that changed. But our
players continued to fight and claw and hustle to
get back in it."
But the Wolverines didn't back down to that daunt-
ing 22-2 run. Michigan cut the lead to just six with
10:17 remaining in the game.
"The one thing about this group of people, we
are never going to give up no matter what," Dierdorf
said. "No matter how much we're down by or up by,
we're never going to give up. We are never going to
Despite their strong effort and valiant response to
the Lady Lions' run, the Wolverines couldn't contain
the sharp shooting of Squire. The Pittsburgh native
poured in 15 of her game-high 21 in the second half,
converted on all three of her treys, all six of her free
throws and all but one of her seven shots from the
But none of those points were more important
than the two 3-pointers she drilled from the right
wing in the waning minutes. Squire's two triples
sent the crowd into a frenzy, dashing any hopes for a
Sims succumbs to
tiny Nittany Lions
By Scott Bell
Daily Sports Editor
leers renew rivalry with Bucks
By Mark Giannotto
Daily Sports Writer
Flash back to nearly two years ago.
On March 23, 2004, then-No. 6 Michi-
gan faced off against then-No. 12 Ohio
State in the CCHA Super Six Finals.
The Buckeyes, who
were the decided under-
dogs, jumped out to a 3-
0 lead in the first period THIS W1
and never looked back, Ohio S
holding on despite a No.6 6
surge to win 4-2. 7:3
Now take a trip down Yost Ice
memory lane to last sea- Fri: C c
son's CCHA Champion- _ Sa__
ship, where then-No. 4
Michigan faced then-No. 10 Ohio State.
Two goals from senior Milan Gajic pro-
pelled the Wolverines to a hard fought
Those two battles are not lost on
No. 6 Michigan (10-6-3 CCHA, 15-9-
3 overall) heading into this weekend's
huge series with the Buckeyes.
"(Last year) that was a war. And the
year before that, that was a war too,"
Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
Unlike intra-state rival Michigan
State - who the Wolverines face
at least four times a season - this
weekend's games are the only two
meetings between Michigan and
Ohio State this season. Despite the
infrequency of meetings, the two
teams do not get along.
"We hate these guys as a school and
as a rival," said senior goalie Noah
Ruden in anticipation of Friday night's
game at Yost Ice Arena. "There's cer-
tainly some bad blood there."
But the rivalry isn't the only impor-
tant factor in this weekend's set. There
are also numerous postseason ramifica-
tions that come into play.
Following Tuesday night's 7-3 win
over Western Michigan, the Wolverines
sit in a tie with Lake Superior State for
second place in the CCHA. But Michi-
gan is just one point ahead of Michigan
State and Northern Michigan. ,
Ohio State (9-9-2, 13-11-4) cur-
rently occupies sixth
place in the CCHA,
just three points behind
the Wolverines. When
all is said and done this
weekend, both Michigan
and Ohio State can be as
high as second or as low
"When we play (Ohio
State), it is always seri-
ous," Berenson said. "I
know they are going to be trying to
prove something, and I know we are
going to be trying to prove something,"
The Buckeyes were the unanimous
preseason pick to win the CCHA, but
they faltered in the beginning of the
season, going 2-5-1 in their first eight
games. Since then, they've been a solid
11-6-3, and claimed a win over CCHA-
leader Miami (OH). They rely on a
veteran-laden team that combines qual-
ity defense and solid goaltending. They
have allowed just 1.86 goals per game
so far this season.
"Their record has to be thrown out
the window, because they have had
some quality wins," Ruden said. "We
have to be ready for a defensive game.
Ohio State is going to take care of its
own zone first."
On the other hand, Michigan is
the youngest team in the CCHA. The
Wolverines got off to a blazing 9-1-'
start this season, but since then, they
have been a mediocre 7-8-2. Michigan
offense is its strength - it averages a
robust 392 goals per game.
The goalies could be a key to this
STATE COLLEGE - Just 15 seconds
into the game, it looked like Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker's wish would be granted.
After Graham Brown secured the open-
ing tip, Daniel Horton took the ball at the
top of the key. He quickly found a soft spot
in the zone and hit team-
mate Courtney Sims deep
in the paint. Sims went up
strong and dunked the ball TONI
home. The junior appeared
to be on his way to back-to- No.21 Mic
back solid performances, .3
just as Amaker hoped would 5:10 p
"If we can get (Sims and ESPN P
guard Dion Harris) playing
like they're capable of play-
ing for three weeks or a month, it would be
incredibly helpful for our team," Amaker
While Harris answered the call with 23
points on Wednesday, but Sims struggled,
seemingly losing any confidence he gained
from Saturday's 18-point performance
Sims followed his early dunk with a 0-
for-5 showing the rest of the game. He lost
two entry passes out of bounds and also
traveled en route to a three-turnover game.
The lone bright spot in Sims's game was his
seven rebounds, which he collected in just
12 minutes of playing time.
Following Wednesday night's game,
Amaker was disappointed with the junior's
"It wasn't going well for him," Amaker
said. "I think he tried too hard ... It was
almost like quicksand for him. I felt for him,
because we thought he could have a big
night for us with our size advantage:'
Despite Sims's struggles in conference
play, his teammates still have faith in him.
"I think anyone would struggle if they
had to see a different look every night,"
Horton said. "We know what Courtney is
capable of. We know when the time comes,
he's going to be ready to step up:'
LESTER SIGHTING: It might not have lasted
long, but it did provide optimism for worried
Michigan fans. Six minutes into Wednes-
day's game, junior Lester Abram checked
in for Ron Coleman. Abram - who hadn't
seen court time since severely spraining his
ankle against Minnesota a week and a half
earlier - didn't take long to contribute.
On the first offensive possession he was
a part of, Abram cut in from the left wing
toward the top of the key. There, he received
SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE: Saturday, Mich-
igan's five-game winning streak will be put
to the test against another impressive streak.
The Wolverines will travel to Iowa City to
take on an Iowa squad that possesses one of
the nation's best home-court advantages. The
23rd-ranked Hawkeyes have won 14 consec-
utive games at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
"In the Big Ten, you have to get as many
road victories as you can if you want to win
this thing," senior co-captain Chris Hunter
said. "It's a huge game for us; we're going
to have to go in there and try to be more
The teams will battle to remain at the top
of the Big Ten standings. Both enter with
a 6-2 conference record and are tied with
Illinois for the conference lead. After losing
two close road games against Indiana and
Illinois, Michigan will look to pick up its
first road win against one of the "big seven"
- the seven Big Ten teams with winning
NOTES: Horton was named one of the
sixteen finalists for the Bob Cousy award
yesterday. The award is given to the nation's
top point guard.... Michigan was ranked
No. 17 in the NCAA's first edition of its RPI
rankings. The Wolverines are among seven
Big Ten teams in the top 20, led by No. 6
a pass from Horton, took a step
in and made a left-handed lay-
Amaker and Michigan's
trainers both noticed Abram's
limping and discomfort. He
only played for two more min-
utes and remains day-to-day.
Abram is unsure of his status
for Saturday's game.
"I was just testing it out to
see what I could do out there,"
Brandon Naurato and the Wolverines face Ohio State in a huge weekend series.
weekend. Goals will be at a premium
because of Ohio State's strong defense.
The Buckeyes have fifth-year senior
Dave Caruso in net, but the pipes have
been a revolving door for the Wolver-
ines. Freshman Billy Sauer has started
the last three games, but after surrender-
ing eight goals over the last two games,
his status is far from certain.
"(The Buckeyes) are a strong senior-
laden team with a lot of depth," Beren-
son said. "And if they keep their goals
against down, they are going to win a
lot of games"
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