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January 11, 2008 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-01-11

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8 - Friday, January 11, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

MICHIGAN 51
ALMOST THERE
Upset attempt falls just short Rebounding woes
ByCHRIS MESZAROS m continue to haunt

Daily Sports Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE - It was
the biggest test so far for the Michi-
gan women's basketball team, and it
was quite the nailbiter.
The Wolverines have had little
experience with close contests,
and their ability to perform in the
clutch was more than tested last
night at Purdue.
Michigan couldn't convert two
opportunities in the waning min-
utes of the game, allowing the Boil-
ermakers to pull away with a 56-51
win.
The Wolverines had a chance
to tie the game at 54 in the game's
final seconds when they got the ball
after two Purdue free throws. The
play was designed to get sophomore
KristaPhillipsopenfortheshot,but
Michigan couldn'tget her the ball.
Instead, junior Jessica Minnfield
took the shot and missed. Purdue
sunk the final two free throws to
make it official.
Moments earlier, the Wolverines
missed another crucial opportu-
nity. Down by one, Michigan (2-2
Big Ten, 9-5 overall) inbounded
the ball to Minnfield. After another
agonizing possession, junior Carly
Benson found the ball in her hands
as the shot clock expired.
Despite the turnover, Ben-
son played one of her best
games this season. She led the
Wolverines with 17 points and eight
rebounds. The junior even hit a
crucial shot with six minutes left
in the second half that brought the
momentum back to Michigan.
With just seconds remaining on
the shot clock, the Carney native
banked in a miraculous 3-pointer to
pull Michigan within two, leaving
the Purdue crowd stunned.
"I happened to have the ball and
tried to get as close as possible, and
luckily, it banked in," Benson said.
Benson's performances in the
previous two games left much to be
desired. She shot just 2-of-8 against
Northwestern and 1-of-6 against
Ohio State. But the power forward
got back on track last night.
"It's really critical for us to get
some points out of that position,"

in tough road test

By: ANTHONY OLIVEIRA
Daily Sports Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE - Start-
ing a play is the easy part.
All it takes is a dribble down
the court.
Finishing NOTEBOOK
it, though, has
been difficult for the Michigan
women's basketball team.
"We've been trying to empha-
size to our kids: Finish the play,"
Michigan coach Kevin Borseth
said. "We did a great job defen-
sively, I felt, but we just didn't fin-
ish the play."
The Wolverines held Purdue
to just .404 shooting from the
field in last night's 56-51 loss. But
Michigan's troubles unfolded
after Purdue's players released
the ball.
For the seventh straight
game, the Wolverines were over-
whelmed on the offensive boards.
Purdue finished with a 13-9
advantage.
In the final three minutes,
Michigan gave up three offensive
boards. The most crucial was won
by Purdue junior Lakisha Free-
man. With 1:15 remaining, Free-
man scored off the rebound to put
the Boilermakers in the lead for
good.
Michigan knew boxing out
would be a key to success in West
Lafayette because of the Boil-
ermakers' size - Purdue boasts
three starters taller than six feet.
But as hard as the Wolverines
fought, the Boilermakers simply
wanted the ball more.
"There were so many fumbled
rebounds," Minnfield said. "We
had (the ball), but they knocked it
out of our hands. We get it again,
and they just knock it out."
While Michigan works to mas-
ter the basics of Borseth's offense,
it can't afford to give teams sec-
ond chances, especially down the
stretch. And with the Wolverines

posting a .409 field-goal percent-
age, getting those rebounds is
even more important.
"Finishing the play is so criti-
cal, especially if you can't score
very well," Borseth said.
CHARITY EARNINGS: The
Wolverines were much better
than Purdue at the free-throw
line.
In fact, they were perfect.
The catch? They shot just twice
from the stripe.
The Boilermakers, on the other
hand, got 18 chances.
And while they made just 10,
those points made a difference
last night.
"We never got to the free-
throw line," Borseth said. "We
weren't very doggone aggressive,
I didn't feel. They just wanted it
more down the stretch."
Suffering a SO-point blowout
against No.1 Connecticut on Sun-
day, the Boilermakers learned the
importance of grit.
"I was just being aggressive."
Purdue senior Kalika France said.
"That's just what I wanted to do. I
learned a lot from our last loss."
With a close loss against Pur-
due, Michigan hopes the same
lesson can be applied in time for
Michigan State on Sunday.
MAKING AN APPEARANCE:
The average Crisler Arena crowd
is 1,386.
The attendance at Mackey
Arena on Thursday?
Over 8,800.
Michigan players cherish the
crowds and the spotlight, but the
Wolverines are a measly 1-4 play-
ing in front of crowds of more
than 3,000.
But these crowds all come
out on the road, and three of the
teams are nationally ranked.
Against Michigan State Sun-
day, Michigan willhost an NCAA/
Big Ten "Pack the House" event
aimed at bringing more maize-
and-blue clad fans to the game.

Junior Carly Benson poured in 17 points and eight rebounds in the Wolverines failed upset attempt last night at Purdue's Mackey
Arena. The Wolverines fell 56-51.

Michigan coach Kevin Borseth
said. "She hit some shots at a pretty
good percentage."
Michigan started its final come-
back attempt strong. Senior Krista
Clement nailed a three on the next
Wolverine possession to pull Mich-
igan back to within two. Phillips
later added two buckets that briefly
gave Michigan the lead on two dif-
ferent occasions.
But Michigan just wasn't clutch
in the final seconds of the game,

largely because of poor offensive
rebounding. Purdue's leading scor-
er, Lakisha Freeman, poured in a
late-game hoop off an offensive
board to give the Boilermakers a
lead they didn't relinquish.
The Wolverines couldn't convert
in late-game situations - an aspect
of the game that is almost impos-
sible to simulate in practice. Michi-
gan has been in just a few close
games this year. The Wolverines'
closest game was a four-point win

over Kentucky at Crisler Arena.
"There are some drills that
Coach said we are going to work
on," Benson said. "They are called
special situations, just making
sure we are in a pressure situation
where we know we have a certain
amount of time and need to get a
certain shot."
Learning how to make big shots
will be another step Michigan must
take to continue the program's
turnaround.

Fierce competition in practice
brings out the best in young Blue

'M' turns to DVD for spark

By NATE SANDALS
Daily SportsEditor
Things have looked easy for the
Michigan hockey team this season.
The Wolverines are ranked first
in the country
and have lost just
twice. Michigan
But what few vs Western
fans see is the Mcg
intensity in prac- MiChigan
tice from Mon- Matchup:
day to Thursday. Purdue 6-13-1
Players aren't Michigan 18-2
just compet- When: Tomor-
ing on weekends row, 7 P.M.
- they're fighting Where: Yost
during practice Ice Arena
just to make the
lineup.
This season, forwards Brandon
Naurato, Danny Fardig and Brian
Lebler, who were regulars last year,
have sat out of the lineup at times
with freshmen takingtheir spots on
the ice.
Players say the increased level of
intrasquad competition has helped
the team stay focused in game situ-
ations.
"I think practices are probably
the same, butguys just carry it over
into games a lot better this year
- probably because of the youth of
our team," junior alternate captain
Mark Mitera said.
Freshman Max Pacioretty cred-
ited Michigan's comeback wins, like
the 4-2 victory Michigan earned in
early December at Bowling Green,
to the hard work that begins at
practice.
Although the Wolverines haven't
played an official game since Dec.
29, the battle for ice time in practice
is effectively simulating game situ-
ations. The talented freshmen have
driven up the intensity in practice,
not just by fighting for spots in the
lineup but also with seemingly end-
less effort.

ZACHARY MtISNER/Daily
Junior Mark Mitera and the Wolverines chalk their good fortunes up to practices
that are more intense than in years prior.

The intensity has added a little
jump to the coaches' steps, too.
With 12 freshmen on the team, the
coaching staff is doing much more
teaching than it has in the past.
"We set a standard as coaches
this year that we couldn't accept a
lot of last year's mediocre efforts,
and it was going to start in practice,"
Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
Despite the competition, this
team is one of the most cohesive in
recent memory.
Unlike in past seasons, there
are no divisions between classes
or positions. Senior captain Kevin
Porter called this year's squad the
"closest" of his four years at Michi-
gan.
"Everyone's competitive with
each other," freshman Max Pacio-
retty said. "Then, after the drill,
we're laughing, joking around with
each other. It makes everything that
much easier."
While the team has usually spent
about half an hour less time on the
ice each afternoon than it did last
season, the time has been used
more efficiently. There is rarely
a wasted moment as players and

coaches maneuver quickly from
drill to drill.
For the mostpart, Michigan(18-2-
0 overall, 11-1-0 CCHA) has plowed
through its opponents this season
as rapidly as it has gone through
practice. But just as practice is not
as effortless as it might appear to
the casual observer, Michigan's first
half was no walk in the park.
To start the second half of the
season, Berenson expects this
weekend's series against lowly
Western Michigan (6-13-1, 2-10-0)
to be tough, too.
All conference matchups are,
if you ask a coach. But Berenson
knows even tougher weekends
against Notre Dame, Michigan
State and Miami (Ohio) are looming
in the next month. With his team
working together, "working hard
and working smart," he's confident
Michigan will be up to the test.
"These guys are like a fam-
ily," Berenson said. "Families don't
always agree but they should stick
together - that's always been our
theory. We keep reminding them:
We may not have the best players
but we could have the best team."

By H. JOSE BOSCH
Daily Sports Editor
After trying positive reinforce-
ment and adages like, "practice,
practice, practice," to motivate his
team, Michigan men's basketball
coach John Beilein is trying some-
thing new age:
A highlight
video. Michigan at
"I put the N'westem
order in today
to make a Matchup:
positive tape, Michigan 4-11;
get everyone N'western 5-7
going, so they When: Tomor-
can watch row, 2 P.M.
their tape over Where: Welsh
and over again, -Ryan Arena
making every TV:
shot," Beilein BTN
said following
Tuesday's loss to Indiana. "We
can get them to believe that they
can do this."
Beilein's highlight DVD is an
attempt to give his team the confi-
dence it's currently lacking. Rather
than just telling the players about
each good play all season, the first-
year coach intends to show them.
It remains to be seen whether
the film Will help Michigan defeat
Northwestern Saturday when it
tries to avoid being on the losing
end of a Wildcat "feel-good story."
Both teams are 0-3 in the Big
Ten, and the Wolverines are just
one loss away from matching their
all-time worst conference start.
With a win, Northwestern, long
considered the whipping boy of
the Big Ten, could symbolically
put the Wolverines in the Wild-
cats' usual home - the conference
cellar.
"It's an uphill battle now," red-
shirt junior C.J. Lee said. "We
have to go to Northwestern now
and, basically, get a'W."'
IfMichigan's whole season were
a movie, it'd likely do worse than
Waterworld at the box office. But

.4#

q

Michigan coach John Beilein is turningto a highlight DVD to motivate his players.

by concentrating on just the posi-
tive images, Beilein's DVD could
be as inspiring as It's a Wonderful
Life, showing the players they still
have a conference season worth
playing.
A continuous loop of highlights
will prove to Beilein's players that
they've actually made shots this
season. The Wolverines are shoot-
ing just 41 percent from the floor,
worst in the Big Ten.
"We're getting the looks," Lee
said. "I wouldn't question our
shot selection. I would just say the
ball's not going in the basket. As a
scorer and a shooter, you can't get
down on that. ... You have to have
confidence. It's going to be a great
day when those shots start going."
The highlight video offers plen-
ty of opportunities for players to
see the shots falling before they

even step onto the hardwood in
Evanston. Any piece of confidence
squeezed out of watching the video
may be enough to help Michigan
avoid another embarrassing loss.
Until then, the Wolverines must
continue to play with the weight of
a 4-11 record on their shoulders.
During the Big Ten coaches'
weekly teleconference Monday,
the conference moderator, as she
did with all the coaches, intro-
duced Beilein, mentioning Michi-
gan's overall record.
"Thanks for rubbing it in that
we're 4-10," Beilein said. "But I
realize you have to give the facts."
The fact is, one more loss andO
Michigan's futility will be as
prominent as a movie marquee.
And the teleconference modera-
tor won't be the only one rubbing
it in.

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