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February 16, 2007 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-02-16

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8 - Friday, February 16, 2007

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailyvcom

Upset bid
slips away

6'

'Moral victory' a
bittersweet end

By CHRIS HERRING
Daily Sports Writer
Respondingtoanembarrass-
ingloss atPurdue inDecember,
the Michigan women's basket-
ballteam
gave life PURDUE 59
to a nor- MICHIGAN 54
mally
tame Crisler Arena crowd in
yesterday night's rematch.
Butlate inthe gamethe Boil-
ermakers provided the dagger
that not only quieted the gym
but also finished off the upset-
hungry Wolverines, 59-54.
Purdue guard Katie Gearlds
drilled a 3-pointer to put her
team ahead by five with 58
seconds remaining and ended
any realistic chance of Michi-
gan winning its first game
against a ranked opponent
since 2004.
Though Gearlds finished
with a game-high 21 points,
the Wolverines did a much
better job of defending her
in the second half, holding
the Boilermaker to just 3-of-9
shooting after the break. .
But Gearlds saved her best
for last, using a screen to get
open before knocking down
the game's biggest shot.
"Our team defended Gearlds
well enough," Michigan coach
Cheryl Burnett said. "But she
still hit bigshots."
Gearlds's triple put the game
out of reach, but the Wolver-
iies (3-10 Big Ten, 10-16 over-
al) didn't help themselves in

the second frame.
After shooting 40 percent to
take a 29-28 lead into halftime,
Michiganhitjust29 percent (9-
of-22) of its shots to finish the
game.
The inconsistency between
the first and second periods
hurt the Wolverines' chances
against No. 16 Purdue (11-2 Big
Ten, 22-5 overall)
"They made shots," sopho-
more Carly Benson said of the
contrast between Purdue and
Michigan in the game's closing
minutes. "We were just strug-
gling to make some shots at the
other end. I think that was the
difference as the time was run-
ning out."
With Gearlds hitting from
the perimeter, the Wolverines
had trouble stopping Purdue
forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hyl-
ton as well. Wisdom-Hylton
finished with 19 points. And
she was just one of four main
contributors to a Boilermaker
frontcourt that finished 16-of-
21 from the paint.
Benson had her hands full
on the defensive end guarding
Wisdom-Hylton for much of
the opening half. But offensive-
ly, Purdue had its own prob-
lems trying to contain Benson's
hot shooting.
The Carney native, who led
Michigan with 15 points, went
3-of-5 from beyond the arc in
the first frame, prompting the
Boilermakers to make adjust-
ments in the lockerroom.
"We talked about (Benson)

By ANDY REID
Daily Sports Writer
Moral victory.
Few phrases conjure up more bitter-
sweet sentiments.
And although the Michigan women's
basketball team held a slim lead with
fewer than four minutes remaining
against No. 16 Purdue last night, such a
victory is all the Wolverines can claim to
after faltering down the stretch in a 59-
54 loss at Crisler Arena.
Michigan players Stephany Skrba, Jes-
sica Minnfield and Carly Benson all testi-
fied to just how bittersweet it was.
When asked whether or not it could be
a moral victory, each solemnly answered,
"Yes and no."
Yes because they hung close with Pur-
due, a viable contender for the Big Ten
championship.
No because in the end, it's just another
loss - Michigan's 16th of the season.
But after reflecting upon the first time
these teams played, few believed the
game would be close, let alone undecided
in the waning minutes.
The Boilermakers outclassed Michi-
gan on Dec. 28 in West Lafayette, blast-
ing the Wolverines by 44 points.
Last night, Michigan proved it
belonged on the same court as Purdue,
surprising its black-and-gold clad oppo-
nents from the get-go.
Purdue coach Sharon Versyp tried to
put a finger on what the Wolverines did
to raise their level of competition.
"It's 16 games later, everybody knows
each other and everybody's beating
everybody else up," Versyp said. "Every
(Big Ten) team right now seems to be
stepping up."
Fighting, clawing and hustling
throughout the first half, Michigan

found itself in an unfamiliar position at
halftime - leading a ranked team.
Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett's
squads have routinely struggled with
ranked opponents. Coming into last
night, Michigan's record under Burnett
against ranked opponents was a stagger-
ing 1-23. Her lone win was against Min-
nesota in her first season as head coach
(2003-04).
This season has been no different. The
Wolverines have a tough time against
the top 25, losing to four teams by a com-
bined score of 324-177, including the ear-
lier debacle against Purdue.
Although the Wolverines played with
the passion of a vengeful team, Burnett
denied that the earlier matchup motivat-
ed her team.
"We don't look ahead and we don't look
behind," Burnett said. "We look at the
next game ahead of us. ... I do hope the
kids had deep in their heart what hap-
pened in the last one, just to prove that
we've come a long way since then."
By going toe-to-toe with Purdue,
Michigan proved it has come a long way
since December.
But is a moral victory enough?
"Well, by this time in the season, we're
not satisfied by moral victories," Burnett
said. "Our kids are really disappointed....
We're almost there. We just have to con-
sistently play this way."
Now, the Wolverines have to gear back
up for a potential trap-game against the
only team behind the Wolverines in the
conference standings: Northwestern. But
judging by tonight's game, the Wolver-
-ines can compete with any team.
"A loss always hurts, but it does feel
good to know that we're playing together
as a team better than we have," Benson
said. "We're taking steps in the right
direction."

ALLISON GHAMAN/Daily
Sophomore guard Jessica Minnfield led Michigan with five assists in the
Wolverines' loss to Purdue at Crisler Arena last night.
at halftime," Gearlds said. said. "We were just getting too
"(Purdue) coach (Sharon Ver- anxioustryingtoscore onevery
syp) drilled it in our heads that possession. We should be try-
Benson had a quick release, ing to score every time down,
and that we had to be right in but we have to slow down."
her face." Patience on the offensive
The changes worked. Ben- end would have helped Michi-
son went just 2-of-8 in the sec- gan, which nearly knocked off
ond half. a team that blew it away less
Sophomore point guard Jes- than two months ago.
sica Minnfield, who led the "We came out early and
team with five assists, said it proved we've come a long way
was more than just Benson since then," Burnett said. "I'm
who struggled in the second not into moral victories - it's
frame. still a loss. But I do think it's
"We just weren't slowing something we can build off
down on offense," Minnfield of."

Hoosiers bring national focus

By MARK GIANNOTTO
Daily Sports Writer
National television presents a
difficult dilemma in college bas-
ketball.
Play well in Indiana at
front of a large Michigan
audience, and Matchup:
the attention Indiana 17-7;
could garner Michigan 17-9
praise from the When: Saturday
media, coaches Where: Crisler
and the powers ArenaC
that be on the TV/Radio:
NCAA Tour- ESPN
nament selec-
tion committee.
Conversely, a poor performance
gets magnified because of the extra
sets of eyes fixed upon televisions.
Unfortunately for Michigan, the
latter has been the reality time and
time again this season. The Wol-
verines are just 1-6 in nationally
televised games, withthatlone vic-
tory coming against lowly Miami
(Ohio) on Dec. 7.
The Maize and Blue can impress

a broad audience tomorrow after-
noon when it faces No. 24 Indiana
at Crisler Arena on ESPN.
"It always makes a difference
when the game is on national tele-
vision," senior Dion Harris said.
"Everybody wants to perform
well and get a win in front of the
world. No matter what people say,
it makes a difference if the game is
going to be on ESPN or not on tele-
vision at all."
But when the Wolverines (5-6
Big Ten, 17-9 overall) have had the
chance to impress, they haven't
just lost; they've lost big. Michi-
gan's average margin of defeat is
more than 17 points.
Among those nationally tele-
vised debacles was a 15-point loss
courtesy of the Hoosiers in Bloom-
ington on Jan. 27. In that game, it
wasn't Indiana star forward D.J.
White who hurt the Wolverines.
He was held to 15 points.
While Michigan was concerned
with White inside, Indiana (7-4,17-
7) put on a shooting clinic from the
perimeter. The Hoosiers hit 10 3-

pointers and shot 50 percent from
beyond the arc.
If the Wolverines want a shot at
anupsettomorrow, solid perimeter
defense will be a must. Michigan
can't be slow rotating or double-
teaming on defense, or it will risk
leaving Indiana's dangerous shoot-
ers like guards A.J. Ratliff and Rod-
erick Wilmont wide open again.
By comparison, the Wolver-
ines hit just two trifectas in that
January game. But at least in that
case they could rely on their inte-
rior offense. After scoring just 44
points in Tuesday's loss at Michi-
gan State, offensive production is
no longer a certainty - not by a
long shot.
The Spartans constantly forced
Michigan to set up its offense too
far away from the basket, result-
ing in several shot-clock violations
and numerous desperation heaves
as the shot clock expired.
To make matters worse, the
dreaded turnover bug returned,
as the Wolverines reverted back to
their old ways and committed 20

turnovers.
"We thought we overcame that
- where we turned the ball over
down the stretch and didn't finish
well," Harris said. "Those are typi-
cal things that we've always gone
through and that's not good for us
now going down the stretch."
Theoretically, the Wolverines
could force their way back into
NCAA Tournament bubble talk,
despite Tuesday's latest setback.
But this year's Michigan squad
has yet to show the ability to defeat
a quality opponent, which doesn't
bode well given the quality of its
upcoming foes.
Saturday's game gives the Wol-
verines a national audience to show
themselves as a legitimate threat.
Or it could turn into just another
example of the mediocrity that has
defined this season.
"It's a must win," senior Court-
ney Sims said. "It's as simple as
that. We have to get the win at
home. (Indiana) is a good team, a
ranked team, so we have to get that
win at home."

0
6

Senior guard Dion Harris scored 12 points in Michigan's 76-61 loss to India
27. Harris led Michigan with 13 points in Tuesday's loss to Michigan State.

'I

CHECK OUT MICHIGANDAILY.COM
FOR A MEN S TENNIS PREVIEW AND
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By IAN ROBINSON
Daily Sports Writer
At the beginning of January,
Michigan coach Red Berenson
said his team
couldn't afford ~Michigan at
any mental Lake Superior{
lapses for the State
rest of the sea- Matchup:
son. Michigan 21-10-
And until 1; Lake Superior
last weekend, State 15-14-3
the Wolverines When: Tonight
had heeded the 7:05 P.M.
call, going 8- Where: Taffy
1 in their first Abel Arena
nine games of TV/Radio:
2007. WTKA1050AM
But Michigan lost to last-place
Bowling Green this past Friday.
Perhaps the Wolverines were
looking ahead to the following
night's game against Michigan
State. Perhaps they thought the Fal-
cons would simply fold in the face of
Michigan's superior talent.
Either way, Michigan left BGSU
Ice Arena thinking about what
should've been.
The next night, the Wolverines
battled back from a 3-0 deficit to
tie archrival Michigan State at Joe
Louis Arena. After unleashing 57
shots on Spartan goalie Jeff Lerg
and dominating the third period
and overtime, Michigan played
well enough to earn two points in
Detroit.
"We started with our worst and
finished with our best hockey of the
weekend," Berenson said. "That was
the only salvation of the weekend....
I think we got some legitimate con-
fidence from (Saturday's) game and
the overtime."
The Wolverines will take that
confidence into another road-and-
Joe weekend, this time against Lake
Superior State (9-12-3 CCHA,15-14-
3 overall) beginning tonight in Sault

Ste. Marie.
After last weekend's flop at Bowl-
ing Green, Michigan (16-7-1,21-10-1)
shouldn't have any trouble under-
standing the ramifications of taking
a lower-placed CCHA team lightly.
"We have to come out the way
we came out in the last 35 minutes
against State," senior Tim Cook said.
"We don't have any room for a bad
game any more. It's a clich6 term,
but we don't have any room for a bad
game."
Even if the Wolverines bring the
same effort they did in the latter
stages of the Michigan State game,
getting past Lake Superior State's
goalie is no given. NCAA save-per-
centage leader Jeff Jakaitis (957)
will be in net for the Lakers.
The team in front of Jakaitis isn't
laden with NHL draft picks, but the
Lakers are a big team that likes to
establish a physical presence with a
strong forecheck.
"That's the way we like to play
going on the road," senior captain
Matt Hunwick said. "Their style is
going to be perfect for our style."
One advantage for Michigan
could be the Lakers' short bench.
Lake Superior has played two of its
last three games with just 17 skat-
ers as opposed to the normal 20. But
that doesn't mean the Lakers won't
come out with high intensity.
"We are a desperate team now
after what happened, especially on
Friday night," Hunwick said. "We
felt like our backs were against the
wall, and I think it's still that way."
With the race for CCHA playoff
position heating up, Michigan can
ill afford to have any more mental
letdowns. It enters the weekend
tied with Miami (Ohio) for second
place in the CCHA with two games
in hand.
But Michigan knows another
mental lapse could leave them in bad
shape come playoff time.

.

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