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February 20, 2006 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-02-20

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The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - February 20, 2006 - 3B

Despite recent missteps,
'M' will still be dancing
t sure doesn't seem like it right now, but the Michigan and underclassmen. The juniors and seniors are pretty much
men's basketball team will be an NCAA tournament team doing everything right now, with the freshmen and sophomore
this year. (Ron Coleman) coming off the bench and filling in for whom-
Although the team can't seem to go 20 minutes without ever is injured. So, with three players gone in a couple months
suffering an injury and its defense and effort - and the other four out after next year, what exactly
the two things everyone thought they could count will this team look like after they're gone?
on from this team - have suddenly become I don't know about you, but when I imagine
unreliable. The numbers don't lie. Michigan, Michigan without Horton's leadership and clutch
with seven Big Ten wins and 17 wins total, has scoring, all I tend to think about is ... well, last
done just about enough to be assured an invite. m season. And with Brown and Hunter gone, can the
The Wolverines probably need just two more team win if Sims is the same inconsistent player
wins. And with games against free-falling Indi- he has been his first three years? Michigan coach
ana and a probable matchup with a bottom-feeder Tommy Amaker has recruited a good forward in
in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on next year's class and a good guard for the follow-
the horizon, that shouldn't be too much to ask. SHARAD ing year, but really, who knows? Is it that hard to
A win this week over Illinois or Ohio State isn't M Tbelieve that the next four years will be a lot like the
even needed, though it would be great. MATTU last four years (without the scandals)?
As I typed that last paragraph and read it over, The SI)ortsMonlday Of course, this happens all the time in college.
I knew that it was supposed to make me feel bet- Coun The two best players on Illinois, Iowa and Michi-

ter about the team. Sure, the Wolverines have been
struggling, but they played great in January, and they will be
rewarded for the season they're having. They've waited so long
to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, and it will finally
I would feel that way if I thought this season marked the
beginning. But that really just isn't the case. Although I would
never say this season is as good as it will get, next season and
beyond is filled with huge question marks. And it makes these
last few games all the more important.
Right now, Michigan's top seven players - Daniel Horton,
Graham Brown, Chris Hunter, Lester Abram, Dion Harris,
Courtney Sims and Brent Petway - are seniors and juniors. As
a group, they have spent three seasons in Ann Arbor and have
been through it all: losing streaks, injuries, suspensions, win-
ning streaks, an NIT Championship and next month, an NCAA
The Wolverines don't have an ideal mix of upperclassmen

Freshman point guard Jessica Minnfield scored a career-high 20 points, but it wasn't enough for the Wolverines to beat Iowa.
Minnfield's 20 not nearly
enough for Wolverines

By Sara Livingston
Daily Sports Writer

IOWA CITY - Once again, Michigan went on a run
midway through the second half. Once again, freshman Jes-
sica Minnfield took the helm of the team's resurgence. And
once again, reminiscent of the team's loss to Iowa on Jan.
5, Minnfield's 20-point career-high scoring effort was not
enough, and the Wolverines fell to the
Hawkeyes, 67-55, at Carver-Hawkeye
"I thought our struggle today was
that we would fight to get it back close, and then Iowa would
do something to hustle, either to get the loose ball or to get
the steal," Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. "Then all of
a sudden, (they would) steal it twice, even three times, and
get some really easy opportunities off of our mistakes, and
that hurt us."
With 13 minutes remaining, the shot clock winding
down and none of her teammates open, Minnfield surveyed
her options and then drove to the hole, making a running
lay-up as the shot-clock buzzer sounded. Minnfield drew
an offensive foul against freshman center Megan Skouby
immediately after Iowa's inbounds pass, leading to another
Wolverine score.
At the other end of the court, the Toledo native continued
her dominance by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers - the
first after a Krista Clement airball and the second over the
6-foot-6 Skouby. To cap off her scoring run, Minnfield drew
a Skouby foul and banked in both free throws, cutting the
Hawkeye lead to 11.
"Our coach told us at halftime that we either need to come
together now or it's not going to be a game," Minnfield said.
"I had confidence, and I just wanted to give my team confi-
dence. We were behind, and someone has to step up, and, if
someone steps up, then the whole team is going to follow."
Part of Minnfield's offensive success can be attributed

to the Hawkeyes' focus on sophomore Janelle Cooper, who
was coming off a career-high 17-point game against No. 10
Purdue. With Hawkeye senior Crystal Smith hounding her,
Cooper struggled to find open shots and rarely had enough
room to set herself up offensively. Thanks to Smith's defen-
sive pressure, Cooper went 2-for-10 from the floor and com-
mitted seven turnovers.
Iowa's zone frequently rotated to cover Cooper - who
went 4-for-8 from beyond the arc against the Boilermakers
- along the perimeter, which left Minnfield open to go 4-
for-4 from long distance.
"We were very, very concerned with Cooper." Iowa coach
Lisa Bluder said. "We thought she was someone that could
really hurt us especially from 3-point range. I think we had a
little bit more emphasis on her and maybe that allowed Min-
nfield to be a little more open than we would have liked."
Said Burnett: "There is really a balance with young play-
ers, especially in the point guard position to understand
when to penetrate. And we have actually been trying to get
Minnfield to push it in transition a lot more. That balance
between dribble penetrating and executing the offense is
very important, and I think Jess has done a brilliant job this
year calling things and understanding what to do."
It took Minnfield and the Wolverines time to warm up to
the 5,000-plus Hawkeye crowd, but Iowa was ready from the
opening tip. The Hawkeyes grabbed 14 offensive rebounds
and converted 12 second-chance points.
Although Michigan held Iowa forward Krista Vande-
Venter to just six points - she scored 13 in the team's last
meeting - the sophomore made her presence felt on the
boards, cleaning the glass with a game-high 12 rebounds
and five offensive boards.
"We really came in flat," Burnett said. "We really thought
that Iowa was doing a great job of getting a lot of hustle
offensive rebounds. They were diving a lot more than we
were and doing a lot more of the hustle play aspect, and
those are things we know we have to do."

Continued from page lB
-ing time, giving him a 7-2 decision and
lifting the Wolverines to a meet-clinch-
ing 19-12 lead.
"I came out of the gates, and I knew it
was going to be a big match," White said.
"I was a little nervous, but I think that's a
good thing sometimes."
Though White's win at 197 guaran-
teed Michigan the victory, the Wagner-
Konrad battle still loomed. Something
had to give between the two standouts.
The match started slow and remained
defensive throughout. In the second
period, Wagner failed to escape from
the bottom position, giving Konrad a big
riding-time advantage. Konrad chose to
start neutral in the third. Wagner fought
for the takedown, knowing he needed the
points because of the discrepancy of time
on top. But Konrad held tough and won
the match 1-0 because of his 2:00 advan-
tage in riding time. The loss was Wag-
ner's first since his third-place bout at the
NCAA Championships last March.
Michigan kicked off the evening with
a win by 125-pound freshman Michael
Continued from page 2B
In high jump, senior Jennifer Wil-
liams jumped 1.77 meters for second
place. She said she didn't need a new
personal record to reach her meet
"I had good attempts at what would
have been a (personal record),' Wil-
liams said. "The last couple of meets,
I haven't been jumping well at the
higher heights, and, today, I had two
really good jumps at 1.82 meters.
I feel like the last couple of meets,
my confidence has been down, and I
think after today it is back up."
In the sprints, Michigan gained
confidence with victories from
junior. Chanelle Campbell, sopho-
more Serita Williams and freshman
Amber Hay in the 200-meter dash,
400-meter dash and 600-meter run,
The meet closed with the Wolver-
ines winning the final event - the
4x400-meter relay. Smith led off and
set a fast pace.
"It was wonderful," said Ofili of
Smith's performance. "She did really
well and it was a good race for her.
I think we push each other so it was
a fun meet, and the team did really

Watts who had four t
6 victory over Travis
."I thought (Micha
job;' Michigan coa
said. "That was huge
on the right foot."
Redshirt junior N
Michigan win in th
With the score knotte
mounted a big singl
two points. He allow
hung on for a crucial
Bonus points prov
verines down the stret
match, redshirt sopho
claimed a four-pointr
a 13-5 win. Later in t
senior Ryan Churell
sively, forcing GopI
commit five stalling
delays resulted in ad
six Michigan points.
ines grabbed four bo
way to a victory by th
The much-anticipa
tured 16 ranked wrest
top-ranked competito
"People got the:
tonight," McFarlands
Continued from pag
The 400-yard free
Hannah Smith, Sesk
Smith) -, the last re
left Michigan wishing
Lindsey Smith's com
final stretch of the rac
onds short, leaving the
second-place finish.
"We almost camel
thing:' Richardson sa
five yards longer, weN
We may have been th

gan State are all seniors, and I'm sure fans at all
three schools want to know who exactly will step in. But in the
end, those fans probably aren't too concerned, because those
schools are used to having success. That's not the case here.
Yes, the Wolverines have come a long way this year and
the program has made a significant step in the right direc-
tion. But as the last five games have shown, there is still a
long way to go.
These past few years, following Michigan basketball has
been just as fun as it has been frustrating. Sure, when we final-
ly reach Selection Sunday, it'll feel a little silly to make a big
deal about something that, in East Lansing and so many other
places, everyone takes for granted. But in Ann Arbor, it will be
a big deal.
I may mumble to myself, "It's about damn time." But then I'll
start counting down the minutes to that first-round game.
- Sharad Mattu can be reached at smattu@umich.edu.
akedowns in his 9- Friday's win clinched at least a share
Lang. of the regular-season Big Ten title for the
el Watts) did a great Maize and Blue. And the Wolverines had
ch Joe McFarland an opportunity to take sole ownership
for us to get started of the crown with a win against Indiana
Nick Roy added a The Wolverines won eight of 10
e 174-pound class. matches en route to a 31-9 thrashing of
d at one apiece, Roy the Hoosiers. Pins from redshirt sopho-
e-leg takedown for mores Josh Churella and Eric Tannen-
ed a late escape but baum highlighted the meet.
3-2 victory. Wagner rebounded from Friday's
ed vital for the Wol- defeat with a 3-2 decision over Dave
ch.Inthe 141-pound Herman in his final home match as a
more Josh Churella Wolverine. Fellow senior Ryan Churella
major decision with continued his dream season with a 5-1
he 165-pound bout, decision to close out the regular season
a wrestled aggres- with 22-0 record.
her Matt Nagel to Michigan defeated six ranked oppo-
violations. Nagel's nents in the Big Ten on its way to a per-
disqualification and fect conference season.
In all, the Wolver- "The Big Ten Conference is the tough-
nus points on their est conference in the, country:' McFar-
ie same amount. land said. "For our guys to be able to do
ated dual meet fea- this throughout the course of the season
lers, including three says a lot about their character."
rs. The Wolverines will travel to Bloom-
ir money's worth ington for the Big Ten Tournament on
said. March 4-5.
team there."
The Wolverines are third in the Big
,e 1B Ten, but they are shooting for top 10 in the.
style relay (Brady, NCAA. With up to nine swimmers par-
evics and Lindsey ticipating in the NCAA Championships in
lay of the meet - March, Michigan's hopes are high.
g for a longer pool. "It has been a tough season in a lot of
eback effort in the ways,physically and emotionally,"'Brady
e came up .81 sec- said. "I think that in the end, everyone
e Wolverines with a really stepped up at Big Tens and per-
formed well through everything we've
from behind on that had to deal with. We're really focusing
aid. "If it had been on doing well at NCAAs this year, and,
would have won it. so far, we've got a good group of girls
ie best overall relay going."

Assistant Gage returns to

! V V

By Daniel Bron
Daily Sports Write
not only marked
record a Big Ten
assistant coach
opportunity to r
the place wher
began her post-pl
basketball career
Gage worke
two years as the
torofbasketball o
tions for the Haw
before joining th
coach Cheryl Bu
Gage played
Missouri State f
was a member
ley Conference
made three NC
ances. The four
aged 2.7 points, I
game for her car
Gage spent a
sional world of fa
joining the Hawk
after two years i
tion, she wanted
ing, and she look
that opportunity.
"I wanted to g
Gage said. "At Io
trative position, a
nerfert onnortinn

stomping ground
owich She got along with everybody on our team, spot
r and we all just love her. She was like my 12 se
best friend who didn't play basketball." onev
- Sunday's game at Iowa Smith was not the only person eager broug
Michigan's final chance to to see Gage. The entire Iowa community -n
road win. It also provided welcomed her back with open arms, and point
Shannon Gage with an Gage received and gave numerous hugs first1
evisit and friendly greetings before the game. verin
e she "We really miss Shannon," Iowa coach since
aying Lisa Bluder said. "She was a great part of other
our program. I just never had any worries volle
d for $ when she was here because she came in spurt
direc- with a maturity level that she could handle is th(
ipera- anything that was thrown at her. We really colum
keyes miss her. I'm sure she's a great addition to
he Wolverine staff under the Michigan staff."
rnett this season. Gage is not likely to be content with a
for Burnett at Southwest permanent position as an assistant coach.
rom 1995 to 1998. Gage But for now, it's the perfect fit for her.
of three Missouri Val- "I do eventually want to be a head
championship teams and coach;' Gage said. "But I haven't given
AA Tournament appear- myself a time limit. I feel like when God
-year letter-winner aver- says I'm ready to do that, and I feel like I've
.4 assists and .8 steals per learned a lot, then I'll take that next step."
eer. SKOUBY-DON'T: Six-foot-six Iowa fresh-
brief stint in the profes- man center Megan Skouby wreaked havoc
shion merchandise before on the Michigan front line in the teams'
eye program in 2003. But first meeting this year. She finished with
n an administrative posi- 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting and tallied
to move closer to coach- eight rebounds and five blocks. So Burnett
zed east to Ann Arbor for and her team entered this game knowing
they had to stop the Mentor, Ohio native
et on the floor and coach," if they wanted to have a chance to win the
)wa, I was in an adminis- game. Freshmen Carly Benson and Steph-
and what could be a more any Skrba fronted Skouby - who Bluder
ity tc ot into coaching called "the hest freshman in this confer- .

in Iowa
for the Wolverines came with just
econds to play in the game. Six-foot-
volleyball player Megan Bowman -
ght aboard to help Michigan's depth
ailed a 12-foot jumper off a pass from
t guard Jessica Minnfield. It was the
basket scored this season by a Wol-
ne not recruited to the basketball team
the injury-plagued squad turned to
r sports to help fill out the roster. Other
yball players have played for small
ts in previous games, but Bowman
e first to make a mark in the scoring

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