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January 17, 2006 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-17

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The Michigan Daily - SportsTuesday - January 17, 2006 - 5

FASTBREAK

Men's Basketball

Saturday's Game
ILLINOIS 79 - MICHIGAN 74
Aggressive Sims breaks out of Big Ten slump

By Jack Herman
Daily Sports Writer
CHAMPAIGN - Michigan junior
Courtney Sims had a rough start to the con-
ference season, leaving many Wolverine
fans wondering if he was up to the chal-
lenges that face a Big Ten post player.
If Saturday's game
against Illinois is any
indication, he just might
be. "

Sims tallied 16 points,
recorded four boards
and blocked two shots in
Michigan's 79-74 loss to
the Illini.

$00 ,

"I was just being more aggressive," S
said. "Going up with my shots even th
they were double-teaming me, trying t
better position in the low post."
Sims's play might finally allow the co
ing staff to breathe easy. After dominai
during the nonconference schedule, scc
double digits in all but two of 11 ga:
Sims probably had some high expectat
coming into Michigan's Jan. 3 game aga
Indiana. But he struggled in that mat<
and the Wolverines' game against
due, combining for 11 points on just s
attempted field goals.
The game against the Illini, how
provided a glimmer of hope for the
of the year. Sims started off with s
trouble, stymied on one of the Wolveri
opening possessions by the double-tear
tactic that UCLA used to stop him earli
the season. But a few players later, Sims
himself in the swing of things.
Wolverines wing Lester Abram d
down the lane and got the ball to Sims,
scored and drew the foul. Sims hit the
throw, giving Michigan a 9-8 lead.
Sims's finest play came when he gral
the largest advantage the Wolverines w
« SINGER
Continued from page 1B
For the first - and perhaps only
- time in my life, the thought flashed
through my mind:
Tommy Amaker is an offensive
genius.
The play worked, and Horton got
the open look he wanted. The shot
was on target, but didn't fall. C'est la
vie.
On Saturday, Michigan stood toe-
to-toe with the heavyweight cham-
pion of the Big Ten for 12 rounds.
Bloodied and bruised, the Wolverines
never surrendered. They responded
to every vicious blow with an equal-
ly nasty counter-punch and kept the
champ on the ropes until the final
bell sounded.
But in the end, the conclusion was
familiar. Michigan failed to produce
the knockout blow, and, as a result,
lost by split decision.
After the game, Amaker and the
team were as downtrodden as I've
ever seen them. And why not? They
had to be able to taste it, just as I
could. Michigan could have prevented
the Illini from amassing an NCAA-
best 31-game home winning streak.
Michigan could have put itself on the
national map by knocking off a top-
10 team on the road. Michigan could
have finally broken the "can't win a
big game" stigma that has haunted it
for years. It could have been a land-
mark victory, a turning point in the
ugly recent history of the Michigan
basketball program.
Instead, with the rimming-out of
Horton's shot, Saturday's game was
just the latest example of a familiar
pattern for the Wolverines. The close-
but-no-cigar, prove-your-talent-but-
don't-quite-get-over-the-hump game
has been Michigan's staple during the
Amaker era.
But there's reason for hope - Dan-
iel Horton. After his performance on
Saturday, there remains no doubt in
my mind that Horton: 1) is one of the
V best guards in the nation, 2) deserves
to be mentioned in the same breath as
Dee Brown and 3) will be playing in
the NBA next year.
Look at his performance down the
stretch. With less than seven min-
utes to go, Brown drained his second
consecutive trey - thanks to Amak-
er's ill-advised transition to a zone
defense - and gave Illinois a 69-60
lead. Undaunted, Horton responded
with two consecutive triples of his
own, draining the second one right
in Brown's eye. While the rest of the

Wolverines' offense stalled in the last
few minutes, Horton shined, scoring

hold all game. After receiving the ball
down low, Sims backed down Illinois cen-
ter Shaun Pruitt and sank a hook shot. In
addition, Sims drew the foul and hit the
shot to increase the lead to 16-12.
It wasn't all fun and games for Sims
though. Late in the game, Illinois forward
James Augustine rejected Sims on a key
Michigan possession with one minute left.
SOMEWHAT ACCORDING TO PLAN: After
Abram missed the first two Big Ten games
this season nursing a toe injury, trainers
told Michigan coach Tommy Amaker that
he could expect about 20 to 25 minutes out
of the wing.
Things went just as expected, sort of.
Although he was out of the starting line-
up for the third straight game, Abram saw
22 minutes of floor time. He scored five
points and showed no signs of pain while
out on the court.
But in the locker room, it was a different
story.
"After the game, I took my shoes off, and
it swelled up pretty bad," Abram said.
THESE RULES THEY ARE A-cHANGIN'?: Michi-
gan forward Graham Brown saw his time
limited with four fouls. The same for Illi-
nois forward James Augustine. Even worse,
Illini forward Brian Randle fouled out.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber suggests it
might be time for a rule change.
"It seems like every Big Ten game, the
best big men get two fouls and they got to sit
and they can't play," Weber said. "Whether
it's (Michigan State's Paul) Davis, Augus-
tine, (Indiana's Marco) Killingsworth,
Sims, maybe we've got to look at six fouls.
You want your best players on the court."
NOTES: Michigan guard Daniel Horton
moved into No. 25 of the all-time Michigan
scoring list with 1,257 points. ... Sims now
places fourth in Wolverine history with
151 blocks. ... The game was sold out, with
16,618 fans in attendance.

0

PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Daniel Horton
Michigan
Horton used 17 second-half points
to bring the Wolverines to a brief
lead after they trailed by 11 at half-
time. He finished the game with 19
points and a team-high five assists.
Dee Brown
Illinois
Brown scored a game-high 26
points, making five 3-pointers
and going 9-for-10 from the
line. He also tied Horton for
the game's top honors with five
assists.
W HAT DID YOU SAY?
"We don't want to take positives out of
this, we came up short."
- Junior guard Dion Harris on the team's mindset
following another close loss at the end of a game.
KEY STAT
In the last 7:22, Daniel Horton was the
7.22lone Wolverine to make a field goal.
SATURDAY'S GAME
ILLINOIS 79

Player

MIN

FG
M-A

FT
M-A

REB
O-T

A

F

PTS

Augustine 33 9-11 5-6 3-9 1 4 23
Randle 31 3-6 2-3 5-6 3 5 9
Pruitt 18 2-6 0-1 1-6 0 4 4
Brown 40 6-17 9-10 1-2 5 1 26
McBride 26 2-7 0-0 0-0 3 3 5
Smith 23 2-6 0-0 0-2 0 1 6
Carter 14 0-2 4-4 0-3 0 0 4
Arnold 15 1-5 0-0 1-4 1 2 2
TEAM 2-3

FOREST CASEY/Daily
Junior Courtney Sims went 5-for-10 from the field on Saturday, netting 16 points against Illinois.

Iright picks up another win and
closes gap on Bell's point lead.
Scoring system:
(last game's points, overall points, single-game wins)

TEAM TOTALS

200 1 25-60 20-24

13-35

13

201 79

Kevin Wright
(D. Horton, J. Shepherd,
B. Petway, T. Sanchez,
P. DeVries)
(27, 268, 5)

Jack Herman
(L Abram, R. Coleman,
J. Smith, K. Price)
(13, 237, 3)

When Brent Petway covered
half of the court in three steps
and threw down a dunk in the
second half, I was dancing back
on defense with him.
After a subpar first half, Daniel
Horton once again rose to almost
lead the Wolverines to the upset
victory over the Illini.
But Petway was the deciding
factor in the secondshalf. His eight
points helped to spark Michigan's
comeback. He came up with key
blocks and electrifying dunks.
Lester Abram returned to the
court after missing the first two
games due to a foot injury. Although
his 22 minutes of playing time didn't
alarm me - he looked fine on the
court - his reaction in the locker
room did. Hopefully, he'll soon be
back to 100 percent.
Jerret Smith got his third start of
the year and made it count. In the
second half, Smith hit a big 3-point-
er to start the frame and another one
later on to bring the score within
two.
Courtney Sims finally stepped it
up. Even though he shot one of the
worst percentages of the year (still
a solid 50 percent performance),
he shot, and that's what's key. He
showed aggression early, and it
equated to 16 points, something
Michigan fans hadn't seen since the
end of nonconference play.
I still couldn't pull out the win,
though. Early on, it looked good
when Graham Brown had six points
in the first two minutes, but him not
shooting in the last 38 didn't help.
The good news: Hayes Grooms
seems to be finding his way into
games lately. Sure, he only played 30
seconds. But he has a better chance to
score in the game than on the bench.
The bad news: My two players
who actually play both seem to be in a
funk now. Dion Harris made a oouple
of big free throws, but also missed a
couple of huge shots down the stretch.
Chris Hunter, meanwhile, squandered
two scoring opportunities by traveling
and netted just two points for the sec-
ond consecutive game.

Player

MIN

FG
M-A

FT
M-A

REB
O-T

A

Brown 21 3-3 0-0 1-3 1 4 6
Sims 29 5-10 6-6 1-4 0 2 16
Smith 23 3-4 0-1 0-2 1 1 8
Horton 39 7-16 3-3 1-2 5 2 19
Harris 34 3-9 4-4 1-3 2 4 10
Grooms 0+ 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Petway 16 2-4 4-6 1-6 0 3 a
Coleman 3 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 O
Hunter 13 1-4 0-0 2-5 0 1 2
Abram 22 1-2 2-2 0-2 1 3 5
TEAM 2-4

FG%: 41.7 FT%: 83.3 3-point FG: 9-23, .391 (Brown 5-10,
Smith 2-4, McBride 1-6, Randle 1-2, Carter 0-1). Blocks: 4
(Augustine 2, Randle 2). Steals: 3 (Augustine, Brown, Pruitt).
Turnovers: 9 (McBride 3, Brown 2, Smith 2, Arnold, Team).
Technical fouls: None.
MICHIGAN 74

TEAM TOTALS

200

25-54

19-221

9-31

10 20 74

FG%: 46.3 FT%: 86.4 3-point FG: 5-11, .455 (Horton
2-5, Smith 2-2, Abram 1-1, Harris 0-2, Hunter 0-1).
Blocks: 3 (Sims 2, Hunter 1). Steals: 3 (Harris, Petway,
Abram). Turnovers: 11 (Sims 3, Hunter 3, Abram 2,
Brown, Horton, Smith). Technical fouls: None.

F J PTS

Michigan.......... 28
Illinois............39

46 - 74
40 - 79

At: Assembly Hall
Attendance: 16,618

'M' STATS

Player

GP

Min

Pts

R

A"

FOREST CASEY/Daily
Senior Daniel Horton went toe-to-toe with Illinois star Dee Brown Saturday.

12 of Michigan's final 14 points.
In his senior campaign, Horton is
at last living up to the promise he
showed as a freshman. He's a smart
player, with a 2-to-1 assist-to-turn-
over ratio. He's a deadly shooter,
draining 47 percent of his field goals.
This year, especially, he's saved his
best for crunch time.
All Horton needs is a little help
from his friends. In my last column,
I discussed the Michael Jordan
effect - the Wolverines' tendency
to stand around and watch while
Horton works his magic. To their
credit, that wasn't quite the case
Saturday.
In the last couple of minutes,
other Michigan players had oppor-
tunities to contribute. Harris missed
an open trey off a perfect pass from
Horton and failed to convert a run-

ning scoop shot less than a minute
later. Augustine stuffed Courtney
Sims with a minute to go. If one or
two of those shots fell, Michigan
likely would've left Champaign with
a victory.
No one should blame Horton for
his last-second miss. Instead, fault
his teammates, who failed to convert
a field goal for the last 7:33.
Everyone is sick of watching this
type of loss. The Wolverines have
spent much of the last three years
attempting to prove they could hang
with the big boys. Well, after three
near-wins against top-25 teams, it's
clear they can. Now, if Michigan has
any aspirations - beyond the NIT -
it needs to finally learn how to finish.
- Matt Singer can be reached
at matising Cumich.edu.

Scott Bell
(C. Sims, G. Brown,
S. Harrell, A. Brzozowicz)
(22, 283, 3)

Horton 14 34.5 16.0 2.6 5.6
Sims 14 26.8 14.6 7.1 0.6
Abram 12 29.8 12.0 3.3 1.3
Harris 14 30.7 10.1 3.6 2.9
Hunter 14 16.3 5.7 3.6 0.5
Petway 3 12.7 5.7 3.3 0
Brown 14 24.1 5.4 7.6 1.0
Coleman 14 13.7 3.9 2.4 0.4
Smith 12 15.5 3.2 1.1 .3
Shepherd 12 10.6 2.3 1.3 0.6
Grooms 8 2.6 0.6 0.1 0.3.
Ba 7 2.1 0.4 0.3 0
Harrell 6 1.5 0.3 0.5 0.2
BIG TEN STANDINGS

Team

Big Ten Overall

Matt Singer
(D. Harris, C. Hunter,
A. Ba, H. Grooms)
(12, 230, 3)

Wisconsin 4-0 14-2
Illinois 2-1 16-1
Indiana 2-1 10-3
Iowa 2-1 13-4
Ohio State 2-2 12-2
Mich. State 2-2 14-4
Northwestern 2-2 9-6
Michigan 1-2 11-3
Penn State 1-2 9-5
Purdue 1-3 7-8

SATURDAY'S RESULTS:
PURDUE 72, Minnesota 55;
WISCONSIN 68,
Northwestern 52;
ILLINOIS 79, Michigan 74
SUNDAY'S RELKS
Michigan State 62,
OHIO STATE 59

I

Minnesota

0-3

9-5

.... .

.._ i __

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