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February 11, 2009 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-02-11

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8A - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4

Sims' S eroics not enough

By JASON KOHLER
Daily Sports Writer
With less than five minutes left
in last night's game, sophomore for-
ward Manny Harris put the ball in
his left hand, drove down the base-
line and dished it to junior forward
Zack Gibson. Gibson dunked the
ball and was fouled on the play.
Gibson M A
nailed the MICHIGAN STATE 54
free throw MICHIGAN 42
and the
atmosphere at Crisler Arena hit a
crescendo.
Despite all that had gone wrong,
Michigan was down by just four
points against No. 9 Michigan State
in the final minutes.
But Michigan wouldn't get any
closer and the Spartans pulled away
to win 54-42 in the only regular-
season matchup between the two
rivals. Junior forward DeShawn
Sims led Michigan with 18 points,
but he was the only Michigan player
to score in double digits.
The Wolverines had their chance
in the waning moments, but as Sims
said after the game, they were out-
hustled on many occasions.
With about three minutes left
and Michigan down by five, Harris
intercepted a pass and had just one
defender to beat on the breakaway.
As he went up to the hoop, Harris
lost control of the ball and it sailed
out ofbounds.
A minute later with the Wolver-
ines down by five, Harris grabbed a
loose ball, but Michigan State center
Goran Suton muscled it away.
"There were some 50-50 balls
thatwehavetoget," Michigan coach
John Beilein said. "It's part of a will-
ingness to bloody your nose to win,
these are the ones we got to get."
Michigan fought an uphill battle
all game and struggled to score
against Michigan State's tough 2-3
zone defense. The Wolverines' 42
points were a season low.
Michigan (5-7 Big Ten, 15-10
overall) mustered just 15 points in
the first half. The only consolation
for the Wolverines was that Michi-
gan State managed just 23.
"That hasn't happened to us
much," Beilein said. "Our timing's
off and their defense was very good
as a shock early in the game. ... We
don't really see that length and that
speed defensively when we're shoot-
ing the ball or movingthe ball."
In the opening minutes of the

As season winds
down, M' still has
uncertain future

t's finally time for the
No. 4 Michigan hockey team
to start thinking about the
playoffs.
And considering where the
Wolverines were earlier in the
season, it must CHRIS
be a relief to MESZAROS
be in that posi-
tion. On Ice Hockey
But they
still have a lot of work left to do.
Michigan is currently in third
place in the CCHA with 30
points, two behind second-place
Miami (Ohio) and six behind con-
ference-leading Notre Dame.
Ohio State and Alaska are
Michigan's biggest concerns,
with each sitting just two points
behind and tied for fourth place.
Nebraska-Omaha, the Wolver-
ines' opponent this weekend, is
within range with 26 points in
sixth.
But enough about the stand-
ings. What does Michigan have
to do?
The top eight CCHA teams
host a playoff series, and the top
four teams get a bye and host a
second-round series.
All Michigan needs is one
point - a tie - to clinch a home
series and six points to secure a
first-round bye.
"From here on out, it's playoff
hockey, every game, every period,
every shift," junior acting captain
Chris Summers said.
That puts the Wolverines in
a pretty good spot, given where
they were around Thanksgiv-
ing. At that point, Michigan was
buried in the CCHA standings in
seventh place and had won just
one of five conference series.
After that, the team awakened,
reeling off 12 wins in 14 games.
With a real shot to finish second
in the conference, the Wolverines
realize they couldn't have done
much better.
"We're starting to establish
our identity, who we are as a
team," Summers said. "We were
kind of questionable at the begin-
ning of the year and had kind of a
shaky start. But I think guys are
starting to adjust to their roles on

the team."
However, it's nearly impossible
for Michigan to win the CCHA
title outright, since the Fighting
Irish have a six-point lead and
play some of the weaker confer-
ence teams down the stretch.
Last year, four CCHA teams
made NCAA Tournament. It's
likely the conference will again
receive four berths this year at
most, making a top-four finish
in the regular-season CCHA
standings and anappearance in
at least the'conference tourna-
ment semifinals that much more
important.
The other concern for the Wol-
verines is their inconsistency.
"I still think we should be able
to win every game at home, and
we haven't done that," sophomore
Louie Caporusso said. "When you
play in an arena like Yost, there
shouldn't be any reason why you
can't run over every team."
Their recent winning streak
is impressive, but the power play
continues to struggle, the defense
gives up too many turnovers and
the offense can be spotty.
Until a few weeks ago, Michi-
gan's top line produced more
than haFf the team's offense,
though the team has been much
more balanced of late. The all-
sophomore line of Carl Hagelin,-
Aaron Palushaj and Matt Rust
scored three goals against Lake
Superior State, and the rest of the
Wolverines are also starting to
pick up their scoring.
"We're not relying on one line,"
Berenson said. "We're not rely-
ing on one player. We'll probably
have one 20-goal scorer this year.
I think we're a more balanced
team."
While the Wolverines cer-
tainly have their flaws, that can
be overcome in college hockey.
Who would have thought Notre
Dame would be in the National
Championship game last season,
or Michigan State would win it
all the year before?
All it takes is for a team to get
on a roll at the end of the season
and there's no reason why Michi-
gan isn't capable of that.

I
I

ZJcaCH At nISt R/Dai
Junior DeShawn Sims was the Wolverines' one consistent offensive threat in their 54-42 aoss to Michigan State last nieht.

second half, it seemed like the scor-
ing struggles would continue.
The Spartans outscored Michi-
gan 7-4 in the first five minutes dff
the half. But with 14:10 left in the
half, freshman guard Zack Novak
received the ball on the right wing
and knocked down his only 3-point-
er of the night.
On three ensuing possessions,
Novak fed Sims for three dunks.
Novak had three assists, all of them
going to Sims.
Sims was the Wolverines' only
viable scoring threat, with all of his
coming in the paint.
To make things worse, sharp-
shooters Novak and freshman guard

Stu Douglass finished a 'combined
1-for-8 from the field. The team
wasn't much better, hitting just 34.8
percent of its shots.
"Give them credit, they were
ready for us," fifth-year senior C.J.
Lee said. "That's just on guys taking
their shots with confidence. I don't
thinkguys were scared. I don'tthink
guys were hesitant. I just think guys
missed. We're not going to change
nothing. Coach has been doing this
forever, and we're notthe first group
to play this offense."
Michigan hoped to use this
game against rival Michigan State
(10-2, 20-4) to bolster its tourna-
ment resume. But now the Wolver-

ines will have to scramble to pick
up some quality conference wins
before Selection Sunday.
Beilein wouldn't say last night's
game was a must-win, just an impor-
tant one.
"We just have to play," Beilein
said. "We just got to concentrate on
the next practice, next game. What
is the must for? Is it to get into the
NCAA Tournament? When it comes
to March and we're not close to 20
wins or we're not 9-9 in the league
or something like that, then we
won't be in it.
"But does one game determine it?
I don't think so, but they certainly
all add up."

6
6
6i

More Wolverines need to speak up

uring last Sunday's film
session, Michigan men's
basketball coach John Bei-
lein told his team a fable while pre-
paring for No. 9 Michigan State.
The story goes like this: A group of
elephants stood
in a jungle amid
fewer lions.
The lions didn't
think they stood
a chance against
the more numer-
ous and mighty
elephants, but
the lions even- RUTH
tually came to LINCOLN
see the situation
differently.
They noticed the elephants never
talked to each other, so when the
elephants separated, the lions could
attack and pick them off one-by-
one.
Beilein hoped the tale would
motivate some of his quieter play-
ers to speak up on the court. In last
night's 54-42 loss at Crisler Arena,
the rivalry crowd was deafening
at times, but a startling silence fell

upon the Wolverines.
"Basically, we have to talk on
defense and talk on offense when
we're open, or we'll get eaten," said
fifth-year senior guard David Mer-
ritt, explainingBeilein's tale.
The first part of the message got
through pretty well. The Wolverines
held the Spartans, who lead the Big
Ten in offense, to a season-low 54
points. Michigan State also tied its
season-low rebound total with 31.
But something else was missing.
Besides fifth-year senior guard
C.J. Lee, the Wolverines are a quiet
group on the floor. Lee consistently
audibly encourages his team to get
back on defense and calms players
after they commit fouls.
Last night, while playing a career-
high 37 minutes, Lee said a sore
throat limited him vocally.
But the Wolverines need more
than one major voice on the court.
Who was there to fill in?
Beilein has said junior forward
DeShawn Sims and sophomore for-
ward Manny Harris have grown the
most as team leaders this season.
Last night, Harris spoke up on

defense, switching defenders in the
man-to-man schemes and chasing
for rebounds. Harris's contributions
were vital for Michigan'to stay in
the game.
But on the other end, Michi-
gan State's defense was a little too
much.
Michigan was held to a season-low
15 points on19 shots before halftime.
Five times that half, the Wolverines
were forced to take bad shots as the
shot clock wound down.
And in a low-scoring rivalry
game like this one, someone needed
to step up.
Sims responded in the second
half, calling for the ball inside and
finishingwith agame-high 18 points.
Sims didn't start the game, but still
set the tempo after the break.
"Walking the walk before I can
talk the talk," Sims said, describing
the biggest obstacle to opening up
on the court. "Got to walk it. Got
to be able to do everything I ask of
someone else. If I tell someone not
to miss a screen or talk on screens,
I have to talk on screens they see
every time."

This team is hard to figure out.
Sometimes, it's hitting eight or nine
3-pointers a night, and other times,
the ball doesn't even come near the
hoop. Butmore voices canhelp when
things aren't going well to spark the
offense and defense.
With just six games left, and just
two of those at home, Lee can't carry
the whole burden. Michigan needs
its best players like Harris and Sims
to say more on the floor-
"I always say you may have a very
quiet persona, but you can not have
that on the basketball court," Beil-
ein said at his weekly radio show on
Feb. 9. "And until we all understand
that and come out of our personality
a little bit, it holds us back. It really
does. It doesn't mean they're bad
people, but it's very important."
Michigan is a young team and its
players will find their voices with
time. But until that happens, the
Wolverines' NCAA Tournament
hopes are fading just as quickly as
their voices.
-Lincoln can be reached
at lincolnr 'umich.edu.

F-ILE PHOTO
Senior Lydia Benitez Col6n returned home for the team's first tournament ofthe year.
Golfers shake off rust
in Puerto Rico tourney

,

shaping the unions for you

By ROGER SAUERHAFT
Daily Sports Writer
For the Michigan women's golf
team, a three-day trip to Puerto
Rico was probably the perfect
change of scenery.
But for senior co-captain Lydia
Benitez Colln, the Lady Puerto
Rico Classic was her final chance
as a Wolverine to hit the links at
the Coco Beach Resort course, an
hour away from where she lives.
However, the Puerto Rican
native wasn't able to shake off
a winter's worth of rust during
Michigan's first tournament of
the year, firing a 241 (plus-25) in
the 54-hole tournament Saturday
through yesterday.
The rest of the Wolverines
didn't fare much better, shooting
a composite score of 933 and fin-
ishing 11th out of16 teams. Purdue
won the tournament easily (888).
Although Michigan faced some
tough odds - six of the top 10 in
attendance teams play in warm
climates and most already had
played this season - Michigan
coach Kathy Teichert said it was a
frustrating weekend.
Additionally, Kent State, the
only team that Teichert said
hadn't played yet this year, has
three international players on its
roster that she said played over
Winter Break.
"We're still working out the
kinks, it's going to take some

time," Teichert said. "I can't be
discouraged with this group. They
do work hard, and it's just time to
refocus."
Teichertsaid a major factor that
kept her team from finishing bet-
ter in the tournament was poor
performance on short approach
shots. Aside from a weekend in
Florida before the start of the
semester, Michigan players hadn't
actually played on a course since
mid-November.
The team has been practicing
indoors and at Miles of Golf prac-
tice facility in nearby Ypsilanti
throughout the offseason, but the
coach said nothing is the same as
real grass and actual competition.
"As atteam, we need to do a bet-
ter job with our scoring irons,"
Teichert said. "They weren't crisp
this weekend. We're not getting
the ball close enough to the hole
and we're even missing some
greens."
. Colon was no exception, strug-
gling all weekend with her short-
irons, according to Teichert.
"She missed a lot of shots,"
Teichert said. "But she's going to
bounce back. She's very feisty and
wants to compete at the highest
level."
Freshman Milena Savich was
the only Wolverine to finish in the
top-20, carding a 229 (plus-13) in
the tournament. Her performance
was good enough to tie for 18th
place.

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