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February 20, 2009 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-02-20

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4

8 - Friday, February 20, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Novak's hot 3-point
shooting key in win

0

M needs to look at big picture

By RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Editor
In his team's 74-62 win over
Minnesota last night, Michigan
men's basketball coach John Beilein
attributed his team's 45.8-percent
shooting to a special visitor.
Beile- M E
in's priest, MICHIGA6N 74
Father M
Chas
Canoy of Ann Arbor's St. Thomas
Parish, attended his first game at
Crisler Arena last night.
"That's some pretty easy math
right there," Beilein said with a
laugh. "First game he's come to and
the lids came off the basket, and it
makes us a whole different team."
Michigan made 13 shots from
behind the arc, its highest total in
Big Ten play this season.
Beilein has had an arsenal of
3-point specialists all year, but the
biggest problem for the Wolverines
has been if one player's shooting
well, the rest can't follow suit.
But last night, the Wolverines'
guards couldn't miss.
Freshmen Zack Novak and Stu
Douglass and sophomore Kelvin
Grady shot an unstoppable 11-of-19
from behind the arc. Playing unself-
ishly, the Wolverines recorded assists
on all but six baskets. Novak scored a
game-high 18 points, all 3-pointers.
"Hopefully we'll be good enough
one day to shoot poorly and still beat
good teams with some other stuff,"
Beilein said. "But right now, if we
can create our own shots through
our offense and through our
defense, I think we can play with a
lot of people."
Novak and Douglass, both Indi-
ana natives, have impressed with
their long-range abilities before, but
never on the same night.
With Douglass's 12 points, it was
the first time the two scored in dou-
ble digits in the same game.
Until redshirt freshman guard
Laval Lucas-Perry became eligible
on Dec. 20, Novak and Douglass

T here's no time to skirt
around the fact that the
Michigan basketball team
is firmly on the NCAA Tourna-
ment bubble - and the time has
passed for those tired old clichs
about "taking it one game at a
time" or "not
getting ahead
of yourself."
The team's
goal is to make
the NCAA .
Tournament's
field of 65,
and, according
to fifth-year ANDY
senior David REID
Merritt, the-
players and
coaches talk about it every day.
It's about big-picture stuff. Get
to 10 Big Ten wins, don't drop
another home game, shake the
road-game woes and raise hell
in the conference tournament. A
short-term focus isn't going to help
anyone now.
That was Merritt's mentality as
he sat at his locker smiling after
an impressive win over Minnesota
last night.
"The NCAA is always on our
mind," Merritt said. "That's what
we come in every day to work
toward. We're just trying to get
there."
Yes, beating the Golden Gophers
was a big win, and yes, it gets

Michigan closer to its ultimate
goal, but it's far from enough. With
four regular-season games to go
(three of which are on the road),
the Wolverines need to win at least
two - if not three - to stay on the
right side of the bubble.
Merritt, one of the emotional
leaders on this team, has a mind-
set that is exactly what Michigan
needs right now. If the Wolverines
got too high after the big win last
night, they could get distracted
from their goal.
But there were plenty of posi-
tives to be taken from last night's
game against the Golden Gophers.
It took almost two full seasons,
but Michigan men's basketball
coach John Beilein's patented
sharp-shooting, turnover-causing,
fastbreak-thriving style of play
finally seemed to fall into place for
40-straight minutes last night.
And because of the reemergence
of Beilein Ball, which has been in
hibernation for most of the last
month, the Wolverines looked like
a team that could not only make
the NCAA Tournament but also
do some serious damage once they
go there.
Everything started with the
3-pointer, one of the characteristic
traits of Beilein Ball, and a slew of
maize-and-blue players that got
hot from behind the arc.
Freshman Zack Novak hit his
first three deep ballson his way to

a staggering six a-pointers. Fresh-
man Stu Douglass was feelingit,
too. And sophomore Kelvin Grady,
who has been struggling to get off
the bench recently, added three
triples.
We've all heard that Beilein's
teams live and die by the 3-pointer.
Sure, the Wolverines benefited
from hitting a couple shots, but,
this squad is about more than that.
On defense, Beilein's 1-3-1 zone
scheme emphasizes stringent
defense, and causing as many
turnovers as possible. The Golden
Gophers coughed up the ball 12
times, which led to a ton of easy
transition buckets on the other
end.
Lay-ins, dunks and touch float-
ers are a whole lot easier when
there are no defenders around.
"I don't know - it was like that
from the start," Merritt said of
Michigan's dominant play. "We
just had a good feeling, like we
were going to come out strong. But
I think this was the best game we,
played all season, defensively and
offensively."
Even if the team can't explain
it, the hot shooting and the tough
defense are exactly what the teani
has to have down the stretch to
make the tournament:
Every day.
- Reid can be reached at
andyreid@umich.edu.

SAID ALSALAH/Da
Freshman Zack Novak scored a career-high 18 points of f of six 3-pointers.

never played on the floor at the same
time. Since then, they've fine-tuned
their on-court chemistry.
Late the first half, Novak was
on a fastbreak and got tied up with
Minnesota in the lane. But stand-
ing behind him at the top of the key,
Douglass was open for the 3-pointer.
"I just hear one word - I hear,
'Zack, Zack,' " Novak said. "I just
turned around, and I knew right
away, if he's open, then he can hit
it. It's just things like that we know
how to play off each other."
Douglass made-the shot, one of
Michigan's nine first-half 3-pointers.
"On the bench at the beginning
of the game, I said, 'This was going
to be a shooting night,'" Grady said.
"These guys aren't going to miss."
And last night, neither did Grady.
For the last five contests, Grady
has watched most of Michigan's
games from the bench. After aver-
aging over 23 minutes per game,
he played just eight combined min-
utes in the five contests before last
night's game.
But when sophomore forward

Manny Harris played just 22 min-
utes because of foul trouble, it was
Grady who filled in.
He made the most of that time.
One of Michigan's fastest players,
Grady broke Minnesota's full-court
press, found open teammates and
knocked down his own shots. In 14
minutes, he was perfect on his four
attempts from the field, finishing
with 12 points an d three assists.
Both teams entered the game
battling for breathing room in the
middle of the Big Ten standings,
and both teams' NCAA Tournament
hopes depend greatly on the last two
weeks of the regular season. Michi-
gan (7-7 Big Ten, 17-10 overall) and
Minnesota (7-7, 19-7) need to finish
with at least a.500 conference record
and win a couple games in the Big
Ten Tournament to seriously think
about an at-large NCAA bid.
But after back-to-back wins -
their first winning streak since the
beginning of January - the Wolver-
ines have renewed confidence in the
conference entering their final four-
game regular-season stretch.

Anemic offense sinks Blue

NCAA seed at stake against OSU

By CHRIS MESZAROS
Daily Sports Writer
Usually when Michigan and Ohio
State battle on the ice late in the sea-
son, only one of the teams is looking
to secure a spot in the NCAA Tour-
nament.
And that team Michigan at
isn't usually wear- Ohio State
ing scarlet and
gray. Matchup:
But this week- Michigan
end, with the 23-9-0;
regular season 11-10-4t
winding down,
both the Wolver- When:
ines and the Buck- Tonight,
7:05 .m.
eyes' postseason
dreams are still Where: Value
alive. Michi- City Arena
gan, sitting in TV: BTN
third place in the
CCHA, is almost
certain to nab a spot, but Ohio State
still has some work to do.
Ohio State is in a precarious posi-
tion after its collapse againstconfer-
ence doormat Michigan State last
weekend. If the Wolverines sweep
the Buckeyes this weekend, the
Buckeyes can likely kiss their NCAA
dreams goodbye.
Ohio State sits in fifth place in
the CCHA with 29 points. Friday
and Saturday's games at Value City
Arena will essentially be playoff
games for the Buckeyes.

"Any series this time of year is a
big series for us," Michigan junior
defenseman Steve Kampfer said.
"We're starting to turn into playoff
hockey. We're still trying to fight for
those top two seeds. That's our main
goal right now. It's not who we play,
it's how we play."
And with the conference playoffs
beginning in two weeks, Michigan
can't slow down, either. The Wolver-
ines, who are in second place in the
PairWise standings that determine
NCAA Tournament seedings, have
Notre Dame breathing down their
backs at fourth place in the Pair-
Wise. Michigan and Notre Dame
are both looking to secure the cov-
eted No. 1 spot in the Grand Rapids
regional of the NCAA Tournament.
The lower-seeded team will likely
play in Minneapolis for the first two
rounds of the tournament.
While Michigan is already guar-
anteed a first-round bye in the
CCHA Tournament, it now looks
to secure either the second or third
seed and better positioning for the
NCAA Tournament.
When asked whether knowing
when and where his team will play
its first series helps the Wolverines,
Michigan coach Red Berenson defi-
nitely thought so.
"I hope it helps our team," Beren-
son said. "I think it gives us a little
bit of direction. We know where
we're going to play. We don't know

who we're going to play but we know
when and where."
The Buckeyes haven't battled for
an NCAA berth in a while, and their
newfound success isn't by sheer
luck. Ohio State's freshman class .is
one of the best in the nation.
Led by Zac Daple, who is second
in the nation among freshmen with
13 goals, the Buckeyes are much
improved from last year's seventh-
place CCHA finish.
"Here's a team that's been in the
top four for much of the first half
and most of the year," Berenson
said. "We just now got past them.
You look at their numbers - espe-
cially their offense - and they've
been as good as anybody. They're
having a year like we did last year
with all those freshmen."
Earlier this season, Michigan
swept Ohio State at Yost Ice Arena,
winning4-3 and 6-1. Senior forward
Tim Miller scored the game win-
ners in both nights. But Berenson
realizes both teams are much dif-
ferent from where they were at the
end of October.
"(Ohio State's) lines are more set,
their team is more set," Berenson
said. "We're a different team than
we were then and they are too. They
just played Notre Dame a few weeks
ago and they were right there with
Notre Dame, so they're a good team.
They just didn't get off to asgood a
start."

By TIM ROHAN
Daily Sports Writer
EAST LANSING-Michigan
women's basketball coach Kevin
Borseth muttered under his
breath as he solemnly walked
back out onto the Breslin Center
court for last night's second half.
The reaction was fitting, con-
sidering the Wolverines had
scored just 13 points in the first
frame last night against Michigan
State. IMICHIGAN 27
And MICHIGAN STATE 52
by the
time the
game ended, Michigan had tal-
lied just 14 more, causing Borseth
to look downright depressed.
The Wolverines lost 52-27 to the
Spartans, the lowest point total in
program history.
The game inEast Lansing looked
much more like a neighborhood
street game than a Big Ten match-
up. Tensions were high, with each
team hitting the hardwood almost
every time the ball went up and
down the court.
"It's a battle either way," sopho-
more guard Veronica Hicks said.
"They're up in the series and they
want to keep us down, basically.
We're in-state, we're supposed to
be rivals. But they have been get-
ting the better of us."
For all of the game's physicality,
the Wolverines' efforts fell short.
Michigan shot just 19 percent from
the field and 50 percent from the
free throw line. The Wolverines'
previous scoring low this year was
37 from the first time they played
the Spartans on Jan. 15.
That game on Jan. 15 was an
emotional loss for Michigan, back
when the Wolverines' record was
still above .500. But Michigan State
made an example of Michigan once
again.
"Every time we go out and play
each other, one of the teams wants
to make a statement," Hicks said.
"Tonight they really just came
out and they played aggressive
because they wanted to push us
in the dirt."
Senior guard Jessica Minnfield
found herself on the floor many
times throughout the game. She
drew offensive fouls,"was bumped
driving to the basket and played
physical defense.

WILL MOELLER/Daily
Freshman Carmen Reynolds pulled in a game-high seven rebounds in the loss.

4

Michigan State didn't escape
the game without some bruises
of its own, either. Michigan came
out attacking on defense, which
tangled up the Spartan offense.
The Wolverines contested almost
every shot, but Michigan State
successfully countered the Wol-
verines' aggressive man-to-man
scheme by going straight at them
head on and driving to the bas-
ket.
And on the offensive end,
Michigan wasn't surprised by the
Spartans' zone defense. The Wol-
verines just flat out missed their
shots.

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Michigan worked on its offen-
sive game plan all week in prep-
aration for the Spartans' stout
2-3 zone defense. The practice
appeared to pay off early in the
game as the Wolverines forced
two turnovers that led to open
layups and jumped to a 9-3 lead.
But the Spartans ended the
half on a 19-4 run by going back
to what worked for them in the
matchup earlier this season:
points in the paint and open mid-
range jump shots.
"I thought we had a good plan
comingin," Borseth said. "Started
out good ... and then nothing."
Michigan State continued its
strong play in the second half and
the Wolverines couldn't counter
because their shots weren't drop-
ping. The Spartans didn't shoot
the lights out, either, and they
turned the ball over almost as
much as Michigan did, but Michi-
gan State's 21,points in the paint
were the difference.
Even though the Wolverines
were outplayed last night, senior
forward Carly Benson is confi-
dent that the two teams may meet
again.
"We played (Michigan State)
close at home, when we didn't
play very good either," Benson
said. "And we played absolutely
god awful tonight. So if we had
any kind of offensive output we
would have been in that game."

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