The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
By MARK GIANNOTTO
Daily Sports Writer
CHAMPAIGN - At halftime, Illinois'
famed mascot, Chief Illiniwek, danced for
the final time.
After he was finished, the Michigan
men's basketball team might have made
sure that 1998 remains the last time it
The Fighting Illiniused an early second-
half spurt to propel them to a 54-42 victory
over the Wolverines last night.
Michigan, which trailed by just four
points at the end of the first half, commit-
ted five turnovers in its first seven pos-
sessions of the second frame. Illinois then
went on a 13-4 run before the Wolverines
knew what hit them.
The surge gave Illinois a 13-point lead
that it never relinquished.
The loss puts Michigan on the brink of
NCAA Tournament extinction with just
three games remaining and no impressive
road win on its record.
"When they went on that run, I think
everybody was like, 'Here we go again,' "
senior Dion Harris said. "We were never
able to rebound from that."
The Wolverines had 20 giveaways as
a team, including six from starting point
guard Jerret Smith.
And Illinois didn't just let those turn-
overs go to waste. The Illini scored 22
points off Michigan's miscues.
"We just made some silly mistakes that
we shouldn't have made," Smith said. "It's
something deeper than (discipline). We
have to find out what's wrong. We can't
worry about these mistakes."
The Wolverines opened strongly in the
first half. Michigan opened the contest on
a 10-4 run, and executed well on the offen-
sive end, taking the capacity crowd out of
Thursday, February 22, 2007 - 5A
Lonely roadfor Blue
PETER SCHOTTENFE LS/Daily
Senior Courtney Sims grabbed nine rebounds and scored seven points in last night's loss to Ilinois.
the game. It wasn't just Abram and Harris who
But just like in past road games, the Wol- struggled, though. As a team, the Wolver-
verines gave the lead rightback. ines shot just 37 percent from the field. The
The Illini answered with a 7-0 run of 42 points were the team's lowest total of
their own and took the lead for the first the season and come one week after netting
time. just 44 in a loss to Michigan State.
Harris, who scored 22 points in the Wol- The loss last night, coupled with the
verines' 71-61 victory over the Illini back Spartans' signature win over No. 2 Wis-
in January, struggled from the outset. On consin two nights ago, have left the Wol-
the Wolverines' opening possession of the verines a notch below their competitors for
night, he threw up an airball from 3-point an NCAA Tournament bid.
range. The Detroit native made just one "We have to learn how to put it together
shot all night, scoring two points for the for 40 minutes," Harris said. "I don't think
game. ithas anything to do with our physical abil-
To make matters worse, senior captain ities. It's just mentally, we have to focus in
Lester Abram, who had a season-high 25 on every possession and every single min-
points in that win over the Illini, netted ute and we're not doingthat.
just three points and was held to one shot "It's never too late, but it's gettinglate for
attempt. us to be trying to put together those types
Abram, who was arrested earlier this of things."
week for driving with a suspended license, With one final salute to the home crowd,
was in the starting lineup. Chief Illiniwek signaled the end of an era
"Dion being 1-for-10 from the floor and for Illinois.
Lester gettingjust one attempt, I'mshocked Little did he know, the night could have
that's what the stat line reads," Michigan extended an era for Michigan - one with-
coach Tommy Amaker said. out any NCAA Tournament appearances.
The season isn't over, but it's finished.
The Michigan men's basketball
team will conclude its season in the
Tournament for the >
and the third season in
the past four, barring;
a miraculous Big Ten
And with power-
houses Wisconsin and DANIEL
Ohio State participat- BROMVICH
ing in the same tour- -
nament, it would take Broms Away
nothing short of divine
intervention for Michigan to realize that
With last night's 54-42 loss at Illinois,
the Wolverines can finish no better than 2-
6 on the road in conference play. And that's
assuming they win at Minnesota, which is
no guarantee, considering Michigan's recent
two-point victory over the Golden Gophers
This just in: There aren't any home games
in the NCAA Tournament.
And I hear the Selection Committee looks
for big road wins when examining a team's
Considering the recent history of Michi-
gan basketball, that isn't good news. The
Wolverines have lost every meaningful Big
Ten road game they've played since the
2002-03 season except for one, a January
win at Iowa in2005.
Even that game deserves an asterisk, as a
major snowstorm prevented Iowa fans from
turning out in full force.
Michigan has been an above-average
the Wolverines defeated three ranked teams
in Crisler Arena (No. 11 Michigan State, No.
23 Wisconsin and No.8 Illinois).
But still, their Big Ten road record stood
at just 2-6.
This is the one thing that has kept Michi-
gan outof the NCAA Tournament.
It's the lack of a superstar or an inability to
beat top teams at home.
It's been a lack of focus.
There's been a deficiency of concentration
in the games. Michigan has started numer-
ous road games hot but the team falters later
in the contests.
"We've got to learn to play well the whole
40 minutes," senior Courtney Sims said. "It's
probably a focus thing. We just relax some-
times on the road, and we can get away with
that athome, but we can't get away with that
on the road."
That's understandable if this is just one
game, if it's early in the season.
It's even excusable if it's just one season,
and the team corrects it during the offsea-
But that hasn't been the case.
This team has been unable to win crucial
conference road games for the better part of
four years. Whether the problem is focus,
intensity or an inability to adjust, it's unfor-
givable to go four seasons without solving
No, they're not officially out. The door
hasn't been officially shut.
But it's not happening. This team hasn't
figured out how to win away from Crisler
in four years and learning how to do that in
time for the Big Ten Tournament is more
than a stretch.
The Wolverines have exited the Big Ten
Tournament after just one game in three of
their past four chances. And they fell in the
second round after their one first-round
Before the season, the seniors said the sea-
son would be a disappointment without an
NCAA Tournament appearance. Sims even
said his whole career would be rendered a
You'd think that'd be enough to keep the
team focused in road games, especially on
a senior-laden team that has been through
these same troubles before.
You'd think the Wolverines would con-
centrate on winning road games during the
offseason, on fixing the problem that has
kept them on the outside of the NCAA Tour-
You'd think the players would grow tired
of watching this seemingly inevitable col-
lapse game after game, year after year.
They haven't. And so Michigan will get
to do what it does best after the conclusion
of the Big Ten Tournament: host some more
Some NIT home games.
- Bromwich can be reached
Big Ten's best shines
Power play woes for 'M'
By ALEX PROSPERI
Daily Sports Writer
Sophomore gymnast Tatjana
Thuener-Rego is a show off.
But in a good way.
Most gymnasts tend to keep a
fairly straight face throughout their
floor routine. But Thuener-Rego
often lets loose a handful of huge
smiles, showing no reservation of
"I like to show off," Thuener-
Rego said. "It's part of my person-
ality. I'm not afraid to perform
exactly how I'm feeling."
And that's a good thing, because
Thuener-Rego has walked over,
through and around her competi-
tion all year long.
The Miami native is the Big
Ten's best all-around gymnast with
an average score of 39.267 and has
won five consecutive uneven bar
Her ability to show off is one
thing, but any fan watching Thuen-
er-Rego perform would quickly
realize there's something else that
separates her from all the other
competitors on the mats.
"You can't coach that sparkle,"
Michigan coach Bev Plocki said.
"When she performs, people sit up
and take notice to her because she
has that kind of energy about her."
And it's that sparkle, coupled
with her great talent, that causes
Plocki to call her a "gamer."
Take, for example, Feb. 9 at
Then-No.8 Michigan was in a
tri-meet with Illinois and No. 6
Nebraska. On the final rotation,
the Cornhuskers were scoring high
on vault. Michigan needed a big
performance on floor exercise by
Thuener-Rego to clinch the upset
victory over Nebraska. As her sig-
nature song, Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Jump
on It," played overthe loudspeakers
and the fans did the "Jump on It"
dance, Thuener-Rego was magical.
She scored a 9.875, the second-
best floor score of any gymnast that
night, clinching the meet for the
The winner of the last two
awards for Big Ten Gymnast of the
Week never fails to perform under
"I step up because I know that
winning or losing a meet can rely
on one routine," Thuener-Rego
said. "I just love competing. I get
such a rush when I compete. And
I love being able to run back to
my team and know that they'll be
excited for me as well. That's my
With all that confidence,it seems
like this high-energy personality
would never get nervous.
Thuener-Rego is notorious for
her neurotic tendencies.
"I always get real nervous
because I want to do my best,"
Thuener-Rego said. "But I just tell
myself I just need to go out there
and show off."
But that's easier said than done.
Known for her contagious smile,
Thuener-Rego routinely rubs her
nose, touches her ears and wipes
her hair out of her face before she
performs. Last year, at the team's
banquet, a blooper reel showed all
"I have to do it or else I can't go,"
Thuener-Rego said. "It's a little
But it's all a part of what makes
Thuener-Rego such a vibrant and
And it's a part of the reason why
Plocki thinks her sophomore will
continue to show off that sparkle.
"When these kids come in as
freshman, there's a maturation
process that takes place from year
to year," Plocki said. "As well as she
has done throughout her freshman
and her sophomore year, and as
much growth as I have seen in her
maturity wise and developmental-
ly, I just think she's somebody who
is going to have a great junior and
By JAMES V. DOWD opposition's zone.
Daily Sports Writer "Sometimes we just couldn't get
shots through to the net," Michigan
In a lifetime spent as a hockey captain Matt Hunwick said follow-
player and mentor, Michigan coach ing Friday's game. "Guys were hold-
Red Berenson has become a mas- ing onto the puck for too long and
termind of many aspects of the those lanes closed off. We definitely
game. need to improve the power play if
But even decades of wisdom can't we want to win games."
provide the answers for every- Heading into this weekend's
thing. series, Berenson hopes the recent
As No. 10 Michigan prepares to struggles will inspire a newfound
end its regular season in Colum- hustle in his power play unit.
bus this weekend, the team is still One key to Michigan's success
searching for a power-play formula with a man advantage has been the
that can propel it to playoff success. team's ability to win loose pucks
"We're working on it," Berenson and maintain control of the offen-
said. "I thought we had some good sive zone.
moments (during Tuesday's) prac- "It's not just when you have the
tice and hopefully ... we will have puck," Berenson said. "It's often
a few more. Then hopefully it will what you do when you don't have
translate into the games this week- the puck. When you dump the puck
end. But (the power play) is a fickle in their zone, or there's a loose
Throughout the entire season, university unions-
Michigan's special teams success almost as good as
has dictated the direction the team
Since scoring on 3-of-9 opportu-
nities during a 7-4 victory at West-
ern MichiganFeb.2, the Wolverines
have scored on just 2-of-25 chances.
The deficiency resulted in a three-
game losing streak before Sunday's
win over Lake Superior State.
During Friday night's loss to
the Lakers, Michigan's struggles M'e University
resulted from hesitation in the =w Unions
puck on a face off or when the puck
is up for grabs, we've got to battle
for thatpuck or we let them dump it
down the ice."
Berenson also believes usingtwo
lines with scoring ability will pro-
vide his team with an edge over a
struggling Ohio State team.
"We have two units which we
think are competitive," Berenson
said. "For example, if you're Ohio
State,you might focus on (T.J. Hen-
sick's) line because he's a senior and
has the most points.
"But it might be Cogliano's unit
that jumps up and bites you. Hope-
fully if one is not clicking, then the
other one is."
If ever there was a weekend for
the power play to find its legs, this
may bethe one. Ohio State's penalty
kill has struggled all year long and
sits at ninth in the CCHA.
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