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March 10, 2008 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-03-10

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The Michigan Daily - michiganclaily.com

Monday, March 10, 2008 - 3B

S The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, March 10, 2008 - 38

Strong road score not enough

'M' posts best away
score in loss
Daily Sports Writer
CHAMPAIGN - No one on the
Michigan men's gymnastics team
had ever experienced a meet quite
like this one. From start to finish,
the Wolverines knew exactly where
they stood in the competition.
tunately MICHIGAN 353.20
for them, ILLINOIS 357.15
that was
invariably second place.
No.6 Illinois beat No. 5 Michigan
on Senior Day, 357.15-353.20.
A judge's unexpected absence
forced the teams to rotate together.
Normally, the home team begins on
floor exercise and the visitors on
pommel horse, knowing that cer-
tain events generally yield higher
scores and cause lead changes. Sat-
urday, both teams moved in Olym-
pic order, alternating performers.
"Personally I like it because you
know exactly where you're at,"
senior co-captain Paul Woodward
said. "Every rotation, you know
who is winning."
Thanks to the ponderous alter-
nation though, the meet took more
than three hours to finish, about an
hour longer than normal. Mean-
while, the Illinois and Missouri
women's gymnastics teams com-
peted simultaneously on the other
side of the gym, keeping up a shrill
cheer behind their blaring floor
Even in the enthusiastic atmo-

But in spite of the strong show-
ings on each event, Michigan
couldn't make up much ground.
"They were harder on us," Yuan
said. "I could definitely see that.
On vault, they should have taken
medium to big deductions on either
team. But they didn't take that (on
The Wolverines' energy dissipat-
ed as the competition dragged into
the final events, parallel bars and
high bar. The women's meet had
finished, and in between cheers
from the Illinois crowd, the arena
became eerily silent.
Sophomore Mel Santander
turned in one of his best paral-
lel-bars routines of the season,
his graceful skills eliciting gasps
of awe from the crowd. Fresh-
man Thomas Kelley's high-bar set
was good enough to win the event
(15.00). But the individual perfor-
mances weren't enough to salvage
the rotations, where the Wolver-
ines made mistakes that gave the
judges ample opportunities for
The team drew more positives
than negatives from the perfor-
mance, though. It was the first time
all season the Wolverines were able
to score over 350 as a team on the
road, and they learned they must
tighten their routines so inconsis-
tent judging won't keep them from
accomplishing their postseason
"We were able to bond as a team
on the road," Kelley said. "We've
been learning this whole season
how to build off one another, and I
think with this meet we were defi-
nitely able to (do that)."

From Page lB
And judging whether the Beilein
era is a successful one will come
down to how he can mold his cur-
rent cast of players into something
more than the 21-loss disaster that
just trudged through the program's
worst season in more than two
Yes, the team will add former
Arizona recruit Laval Lucas-Perry
to the mix next season. And there
are also two recruits - Carmel,
Ind., native Stuart Douglass and
Pittsford, N.Y., native Ben Cronin
- coming in. But when you get
down to the nitty gritty, the core of
the next two seasons is already here
with freshman Manny Harris and
sophomores DeShawn Sims and
Ekpe Udoh.
"We have to develop (players),"
Beilein said. "And then obviously
we have to make some replace-
ments as well and get more and
more people out there."
Harris, aside from yesterday's
seven-point performance, has been
remarkably consistent and will like-
ly make an All-Big Ten team when
they're released today. His future
is bright, especially if he adds some
muscle to his frame and continues
to improve his outside shooting.
But while many will look to Har-
ris as the linchpin for the Wolver-
ines' future success, the fortunes
of this team really rests in Sims's.
When he's playing well, this team

takes on a different dimension. Too
many times, though, he has settled
for showings wellbeneath his capa-
Udoh has demonstrated he is a
force on the defensive end, but his
offense leaves much to be desired.
He showed some glimpses of what
he could become with some dribble
drives and even a 3-pointer in yes-
terday's game.
Butthis season, those three were
good for nine wins.
There's no more room for excus-
es like not hitting open shots and
inexperience - both of which have
become the theme of the year. As
soon as this week's Big Ten Tourna-
ment ends, the honeymoon period
for Beilein and his team is officially
To his credit, Harris knows the
mountain of losses that has piled up
this year won't dictate the future of
this group. He spoke of the signifi-
cance this season can take on if the
necessary improvements are made.
"This is an experience year,"
Harris said. "It's not a good year at
all, but a lot of good is going to come
out of it next year. We just have
to look back on it and get better
because of it."
Thirty games into the Beilein
era, we've seen what this system
and this set of players are capable
of at their worst. The problem is, 30
games in, I still have no idea what it
can do at its best.
- Giannotto can be reached
at mgiann@umich.edu.

Sophomore David Chan stuck his vault to match his season-high scorE
urday in Michigan's loss to Illinois.

sphere, Michigan's usually irre-
pressible energy was absent
throughout the floor exercise. But
the pommel horse squad, continu-
ing its recent trend, got the Wolver-
ines fired up.
All six gymnasts hit on the
sport's most difficult apparatus,
capped by a brilliant 14.85 set from
freshman Chris Cameron. For the
first time in competition, Cam-
eron hit his hardest routine, which
includes a flared handstand. Only
Cameron and U.S. Senior National
Team member Alexander Artemev
perform the notoriously inconsis-
tent skill in meets. Before the event,

Cameron even discussed removing
the skill with assistant coach Xiao
But Yuan encouraged the fresh-
man tokeep it in his routine, and his
faith was handsomely rewarded.
In the next two rotations, the
judges began to appear inconsis-
tent, seeming to overlook Illinois
form breaks, especially on rings.
Sophomore David Chan snagged
another vault title, matching his
season-high score of 16.15 with
a stuck handspring double front
vault. Many of his teammates cited
the moment as the highlight of the

From Page 1B
defensive strategy to emphasize
guarding the paint in the second
stanza and found success. For the
first six minutes of the period,
Michigan (10-10 Big Ten, 17-13
overall) forced four turnovers,
blocked two shots and limited the
Hawkeyes (14-6, 21-10) to just two
But as the Wolverines' pres-
sure paid off on the defensive end,
they didn't make the most of their
scoringopportunities, tallying just
From page 1B
me more motivation. I just had a
lot more adrenaline and energy
to stay on the beam."
With a series of bobble-free
jumps, back walkovers and stuck
landings, the remaining three
gymnasts posted scores above
9.850 Thehcrewbcombined for
a season-high beam total of
The floor exercise - Plocki's
dessert - was almost a formal-
ity, as the Wolverines had a siz-
able .525-point lead by the final
rotation. With the crowd getting
louder and louder, the gymnasts
flipped and danced their way
into the record books.
And while dessert was served
in the form of a season-high team
total on floor, it was bittersweet.
After the Wolverines (5-0 Big
Ten, 15-0 overall) had sealed
their victory, freshman Trish
Wilson attempted an exhibition
performance on floor exercise.
Murmurs passed through the
crowd as parents and students
calculated the final results. Few
people were watching Wilson.
But when she miscalculated a
flip and landed simultaneously
on her head and her right knee,
the seventh-largest crowd in
program history gasped. Wil-
son clutched her knee, froze and
was immediately carried off the
mat by Michigan assistant coach
Louis Robinson Jr. and a team
"We're not sure how serious it
is," said Plockiaftershe returned
from the trainer's room. "She's
had knee injuries before, so it's
probably not great."
Wilson won the uneven bars
title Friday, th e fourth of her
career. If the apparent right-
knee injury keeps her out of
competition, likely replace-
ments are senior Megan Moore
or freshman Kari Pearce, who
both performed bars exhibition
The Wolverines will need to
rely on their deep roster if Wil-
son's injury is serious. But for
now, they're happy to enjoy the
impressive upset.
"It was great to come in here
and be the underdogs," Plocki
said. "We had nothing to lose,
J and everything to gain. We
wanted to come out tonight,
make it a party and have fun."
For the Wolverines, it was cer-
tainly atasty four-course meal.

four points in the same time frame.
They shot 4-for-22 from the field in
the half and just 27 percent in the
"We did a great job defensively,"
Borseth said. "And to start the sec-
ond half, we came out with a quick
two and two wide open threes and
a layup that we missed. Had we
made those, all of a sudden - boom
- you're right back in the game.
But we didn't score."
After staying even with the
Hawkeyes for half of the second
period, Michigan's intensity on
defense eventuallyvanished.
Uncharacteristically, the Wol-

verines took care of the ball better
than in any other game this season.
Michigan turned the ball over just
11 times to Iowa's 17, but couldn't
convert takeaways into points.
The Hawkeyes outscored them on
points off turnovers, 10-9.
And while Michigan's Big Ten
Championship and NCAA Tour-
nament hopes were erased, Bors-
eth believes the team has earned
its way to a WNIT bid.
"We've done a pretty good
job with positioning ourselves, I
hope," Borseth said. "It's not an
easy conference, obviously. We
had five games that were really

determined by the last one or two
minutes of the game. Had we won
those games, things would have
been a lot different."
But even if the Wolverines can't
grab one of those 17 at-large spots,
it won't diminish the impact Bors-
eth has made on his players in his
first season in Ann Arbor.
"He makes basketball fun, espe-
cially after the last three years
we've had to go through were pret-
ty rough," Carly Benson said tear-
fully. "He's really turned things
around and everything we've been
able to accomplish is because of

Check out www.michigandaily.com/sports.
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