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November 29, 2006 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-29

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 - 9A

Bl ue
accepts
gift from
chariy
By DAN FELDMAN
Daily Sports Writer
MOUNT PLEASANT - Central Michigan's
best friend turned into its worst enemy down
the stretch last night: free throws.,
Michigan chipped away at a 10-point Chippe-
wa from held midway through the first half until
halfway through the second frame. Melinda'
Queen's putback on a Kelly
Helvey miss with 9:36 left C. MICH. 47
in the game finally put the MICHIGAN 52
Wolverines ahead for the
first time since 6-5 .4
From there on out, Central Michigan lost its
touch from the charity stripe.
Having gone 12-for-14 from the line to that
point, it converted just four of its last nine
attempts as Michigan escaped Rose Arena with
a 52-47 win last night.
Conversely, Michigan was clutch from the
line. Sophomore point guard Jessica Minnfield
and junior forward Katie Dierdorf each made a
pair of free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal
the win.r
While the home team had hit-and-miss free
throw shooting, Wolverine freshman Krista
Philips was the real thorn in Central Michigan's
side. The Chippewas had no answer for the 6-
foot-6 center, who led the team with 14 points,
nine rebounds and seven blocks.
0' "She's just a big house," Central Michigan
guard Sharonda Hurd said.
Hurd said that Phillips not only affected the
Chippewa post players and guards, but also F;
stepped out on dribble penetration to force
tough shots for her opposition. RODRIGO GAYA/Oa iy
The Chippewas tried to force Michigan (5- Freshman Krista Phillips forced the Chippewas to stray from their game plan.
2) to switch defensive assignments so Philips
wouldhaveto guard their perimeter players, and 4-for-5 in the second half and made several Michigan comeback improbable.
a Michigan guard or small forward would have layups. She finished with 10 points. The Chippewas' early effort was keyed around
to guard their post players. But the plan was to Junior forward Ta'Shia Walker also added 10 their ability to take advantage of backdoor cut-
no avail as the Wolverines feature a few wings points. Her basket with 1:47 gave Michigan a 47- ting, but Michigan adjusted.
that could handle that assignment, sophomores 44 lead. "We want them to go back door because we
Carly Benson, Stephany Skrba and Melinda On the next possession, Benson stole the ball know our help is going to be there," Helvey said.
Queen. off a backdoor pass with the Wolverines clinging Aside from a Central Michigan layup, the rest
The Wolverines outdid Central Michigan to a three-point lead, and Michigan was able to of the scoring came from the free-throw line
down the stretch, particularly Queen, who was take 26 seconds off the clock, making a Central - where Central Michigan alienated a close ally.

New-look
Blue doesn't
fold in the end

By CHRIS HERRING
Daily Sports Writer
MOUNT PLEASANT -
Down just two points at half-
time last night against Central
Michigan, the game was the
Wolverines' for the taking.
But unlike last year, the Wol-
verines won't be rushing to put
this contest behind them.
Despite getting into foul
trouble, turning the ball over
28 times and facing a 10-point
deficit, Michigan overcame its
mistakes to win its fifth game
in seven tries 52-47 at Central
Michigan.
"I don't feel that we did any-
thing to keep the lead," Cen-
tral Michigan coach Eileen
Kleinfelter said. "I think there
were just some things we were
able to keep (Michigan) from
doing that they eventually did
in those last few minutes."
The Wolverines finally start-
ed torconvert second-chance
opportunities.
Sophomore Melinda Queen
pulled down two offensive
boards in the late stages of
the game. She layed in both
misfires for four of her season-
high 10 points.
Every point came in handy,
as Michigan's leading scor-
er, Janelle Cooper, was held
scoreless.
According to Kelly Helvey
- the team's lone senior - the
Wolverines proved they can
be multi-dimensional without
their offensive threat.
"(The game) gave us a lot
more confidence," Helvey said.
"Tonight it came from a lot of
people, not just one. Of course
we need (Cooper) to keep play-
ing the way she has been, but
we're confident she'll get back

on a roll. Our inside game will
help her get back on track."
The game looked dire for
the Wolverines when starting
point guard Jessica Minnfield
got in foul trouble early in the
first half. The team's assist
leader logged just eight min-
utes in the opening period but
Michigan still found a way to
get past it all.
"Iwasveryfrustrated,"Min-
nfield said. "I know every time
I get two fouls that I'm goingto
the bench. I knew I had to play
smart from then on, and I did
with three fouls. I thought I
handled it pretty well."
And so did her team.
Last season, the Wolver-
ines would've folded in a tight
game. But make no mistake
about it - this team is differ-
ent than last year's.
"We know how to handle
(the pressure) more," Min-
nfield said. "We have more
confidencetand we're alotolder
with a lot more experience.
(The veterans) have enough
experience out on the court to
help out the younger players in
games like these."
Notes: Helvey got screened
hard into the press row with
about a minute left in the
game. The pick sent her over
the scorer's table and into the
front row of the stands.
"I don't know what hap-
pened," Helvey said. "I just
know it hurt." ... Michigan
held Central Michigan's Angel
Chan scoreless last night. The
Chippewa guard lit up Michi-
gan for 20 points last season,
including shooting 3-of-3 from
beyond the arc. ... Michigan's
5-2 record marks the first time
it has been three games above
.500 since February of 2003.

It's back to
the drawing
w board for'D'

By IAN ROBINSON
Daily Sports Writer
Saturday's blowout loss to
Minnesota was a lesson for the
Michigan hockey team: offense
wins games, but defense wins
championships.
Before Saturday, Michigan
was riding a seven-game win
streak and scoring more goals
per game than all but one NCAA
team.
But when the Wolverines trav-
eled to Mariucci Arena to face
the top-ranked Golden Gophers,
they learned how important
defense is to beating champion-
ship-caliber opponents - espe-
cially on the road.
Although Michigan created
better chances on net for a period
and a half, the scoreboard read 3-
0 in the home team's favor. And
as the game continued, Minne-
sota poured it on.
The Gophers put 52 shots on
goal - more than any team had
fired at Michigan since a triple-
overtime loss to Maine in the
1995 Frozen Four.
But that wasn't the biggest
problem.
Defensive miscues and players
out of position on the Olympic-
sized ice in Minneapolis spelled
disaster for a Wolverine squad
coming off a hard-fought win
over Wisconsin the night before.
"They got a couple of poor,
unearned goals - from our per-
spective - that they shouldn't
have got," Michigan coach Red
Berenson said.
With Michigan on the power
play in the middle of the first
period of a scoreless game, it
brought the puck into the Min-
nesota zone, looking to take the
early edge. But after a stolen
pass, the Golden Gophers were
in a position to take the lead. A
Minnesota player flipped the

puck up the ice to a streaking
Mike Carman, who beat Michi-
gan defenseman Mark Mitera for
the goal
On the second Gopher goal,
Michigan freshman forward
Brian Lebler, not known for his
speed, was caught alone at the
top of the zone racing for the
puck as it trickled across the
blue line. He couldn't catch up to
the Minnesota forward, and the
Gophers extended their lead.
The large ice surface at Mari-
ucci Arena was part of the rea-
son the Wolverines struggled
defensively. Saturday night was
Michigan's first opportunity to
compete on an Olympic-sized ice
sheet, a playing surface that is
much bigger than the regulation
ones like Yost Ice Arena.
The Wolverines were not used
to so much open ice and often
appeared lost in the vast space.
"It looked like we were on the
penalty kill (the whole time),"
alternate captain Jason Dest
said.
Said senior captain Matt Hun-
wick: "They were able to use that
big ice to their advantage."
Following Saturday's loss,
Berenson said that the humbling
experience would give the coach-
es an opportunity to coach this
week. In the two days of practice
since then, Dest has noticed a
difference in the intensity of the
drills and the focus on the bat-
tling drills.
"Defense is an art that you can
never perfectly fine tune," Dest
said. "There is always something
to learn, and, obviously, in Satur-
day's game there is more that you
can learn."
And if Michigan comes across
the Gophers in the NCAA Tour-
nament at winter's end, it would
need a sounder defensive perfor-
mance than Saturday's to extend
its season.

Senior Lester Abram hasn't been his double-digit self this season, averaging 7.8 points per game.
Captain consistency struggles to
hold on to hi'*s stellar reputation

By MARK GIANNOTTO
Daily Sports Writer
The Wolverines' world has been turned
upside down.
Amid all the variables in the basketball uni-
verse, Michigan could always count on three
things.
The sun would always rise, the sky would
always be blue and senior Lester Abram would
always score in double digits.
But now one of those certainties isn't so cer-
tain anymore. And it isn't the sun or the sky.
Up until this season, Abram had been the
model of consistency. Last year, in the 13 games
he started before he injured his ankle against
Minnesota on Jan 21., Abram scored 10 or more
points in all but two games. In the 2003-04
campaign, his last full season, Abram broke into
double digits in all but seven of the 24 games he
started.
But through eight contests this year, the Pon-
tiac native has notched just three double-digit
performances and is averaging 7.8 points per
game.
"I think it was obvious for us that the two kids
who didn't play well ... were Abram and (senior

Courtney) Sims," Michigan coach Tommy
Amaker said following Michigan's 74-67 defeat
at North Carolina State on Monday night.
Much has been made of Sims's yearly battle to
produce consistently on the offensive end, but
Abram has never struggled when healthy.
And as much as he wants to say that he's
mentally recovered from his injury problems,
any onlooker can't help but notice how hesitant
Abram looks with the ball in his hands.
Against the Wolfpack, the Wolverines
stormed out to a 7-0 lead, and had a chance to
make it even larger. Abram came off a screen
at the top of the three-point arc and received
a pass from junior Ron Coleman in perfect
rhythm. But as he went up for the open trifecta,
he started to question himself midair.
Instead of shooting, Abram threw a wild pass
in the direction of Coleman while still in flight.
The ball was completely off-target and rolled
out of bounds. North Carolina State scored on its
ensuing possession. The Wolverines could have
gone up 10-0 against a frazzled Wolfpack squad,
but Abram's poor decision had gotten North
Carolina State on the scoreboard. From then on,
the Wolfpack played with more confidence and
poise, finishing the half with a 35-28 lead.

His lack of production doesn't have Abram
concerned - yet.
"My offense will come," he said. "I'm not
worried about that."
Without a productive Abram, Michigan puts
up offensive numbers like it did on Monday
night. The Maize and Blue shot just 38 percent
from the floor and became a one-dimensional
team when its fast break was unsuccessful.
Senior Courtney Sims was unable to muster
much of anything on the interior, which left the
offensive burden squarely on the shoulders of
guard Dion Harris.
Although he scored 24 points, Harris missed
10 three-pointers and had to take 20 shots over-
all to lead the team in scoring.
Somehow, Abram needs to revert back to the
player the Wolverines learned to count on in the
direst of situations. With him at his best, they
know the sky is the limit.
"He's struggling (right now)," Amaker said
following Abram's four-point output against
the Wolfpack. "I think Lester is out of sync, and
... for us to become the kind of team we aspire
to be this season, we're going to need Lester to
play up to his potential. And right now it's not
there."

YOU CAN ALWAYS WEAR YOUR
HEADBAND AT DAILY SPORTS.

* ' I

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