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January 14, 2009 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-01-14

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A

8A - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

MICHIGAN'S MIDSEASON

Wh
Blue-
The answer te
fate of their
one can figu
Many members of
women's basketball
explain the Wolve
problem. Some say i
fidence, others say tl
to be more aggressi
gan coach Kevin
Borseth isn't T
quite sure: R
Why can't this -
team win on the
road?
Senior forward M
recognized the tea
home after its 52-44
nois on Jan. 8. But
doesn't know wher
goes when the Wol
away from Crisler Ai
Ignoring Michiga
ries in its neutral-si
ing tournament
in Mississippi,
the team is 1-6,
this season on the
road. At home, the
Wolverines have
posted a solid 6-1
record.
Even at the
beginning of the
year, Michigan's
problem on the
road was foreshad-
owed. Seniors Carl
Jessica Minnfield re
team at Big Ten M
both acknowledged
their team would li
the 3-point shot this
And by those s
Wolverines certainly
the road.
Michigan has bee
much on the outside
of driving to the bas
the ball into the post
The solution to M
woes will be to open
possibilities. The Wt
to utilize their pos
give opponents diffe
Junior center Kris
senior forward Steph
more than capable o
load in the post.
And outside of
ditional post play
designs the offense
player has the oppo
the ball and score in:
If the Wolverine

at's causing
's road woes?

4

PROGRESS REPORT

iay decide the tently attack the paint away from
season, but no home, they will see the results.
re it out. At home, the team doesn't rely on
'the Michigan its 3-point shooting like it does on
have tried to the road. Making opponents guard
rines' biggest against both threats is the differ-
t's about con- ence between road failures and
he team needs home successes.
ve and Michi- When more shots are taken in
the paint, it opens up more 3-point
'IM opportunities. On the road, Michi-
OHAN gan hadn't been attacking defens-
Women' es who were applying pressure.
)n Woken S But something must have clicked
naketboll Sunday.
lelinda Queen Michigan trailed by as much as
m's hustle at 18 in the second half at Wisconsin.
win over Illi- The Wolverines came out deter-
she said she mined to gain the momentum
e that hustle and crawled their way back into
verines travel the game. They fell short, losing
rena. by four points, but it was a far cry
n's two victo- from earlier, blowout road losses.
te Thanksgiv- "Well, we got down near the bas-
ket," Borseth said.
"They fouled us
(and) we got a lot
S can t ignoreof free throws dur-
ing that stretch.
We kept getting to
wants to win the rim ... and we'd
make it."
on the road. Dribblepenetra-
'tion and pushing
the ball into the
paint propelled the
Wolverines' come-
y Benson and back, and exemplified how Michi-
presented the gan can find positive results by just
edia Day, and getting closer to the basket.
the fact that Maybe Michigan found the key
ve and die by to success on the road, but who
season. is going to lead the Wolverines
tandards, the there?
yhave died on Minnfie d is Michigan's stron-
gest hail handler and the team's
en relying too floor general, and she has also
e shot instead posted up in the paint at times.
ket or getting For the Wolverines to succeed on
t. the road, she needs to continue to
ichigan's road incorporate the main post players
n its offensive into the offense and also penetrate
olverines need the lane herself.
t players and At 2-3 in conference play, Mich-
rent looks. igan is now eighth in the Big Ten
ta Phillips and standings. The conference is con-
iany Skrba are sidered one of the weakest in the
f carrying the nation, so it isn't likely more than
four teams will make the NCAA
the two tra- Tournament.
ers, Borseth The Wolverines may have found
so that every the answer on the road Sunday in
rtunity to get Madison. But if they don't con-
side. tinue to build on it, just knowing
s can consis- what to do won't mean much.

I

OFFENSE:
In Beilein's first season, his
team struggled with the ball, to
say the least. But this year's squad
is the second-best scoring offense
in the Big Ten, pouring in 10 more
points per game than last year. But
an offense that lives and dies on
3-pointers will have its problems.
Michigan is eighth in 3-point per-
centage and 10th in total field-
goal percentage in the Big Ten. To
improve, sophomore Manny Har-
ris must continue to drive and kick
out to open shooters when defens-
es collapse on him in the lane. But
overall, Beilein's offense is finally
startingto click.

DEFENSE:
This issprobably the Wolverines'
most glaring weakness. They are
10th in the Big Ten in rebounding
defense, eighth in field-goal per-
centage defense and ninth in scor-
ing defense. If Michigan plans on
making a run in March, it'll have
to shore up some of its shortcom-
ings to stay competitive in the
hard-nosed Big Ten. But there is a
bright spot. When the aggressive
1-3-1 zone 'D' is in top form, the
Wolverines can force tons of turn-
overs and convert them into easy
transition baskets, which is some-
thing Beilein's defense has always
emphasized.

1

Junior DeShawn Sims is a key offen-
sive contributor for the Wolverines.

KtISTA BOYD/taily
Michigan has struggled, tiving op mare
than 62 points per game.

U NONCONFERENCE:

U CONFERENCE:

4

You can't say nonconference
without UCLA and Duke. These
two upset victories, both against
then-No. 4 teams, resuscitated the
Wolverines'-program and invigo-
rated a fan base desperate for suc-
cess. And have you been to Crisler
Arenalately?Attendance numbers
are higher than in past seasons.
But aside from the two wins in the
MAN NY:
It's hard to be critical of
"Manny Fresh." He has lived up to
his Preseason All-Big Ten Team
selection. Harris is the Big Ten's
second-leading scorer and third-
leading rebounder, but even more
impressive is his ability to dish the
ball. Playing more small forward
this season, Harris is fifth in the
conference in assists (the top four
are point guards). It's clear he has
adapted to the position well. Sure,
he's had a couple poor shooting
performances and still struggles
with turnovers, but his play so far
has him in the running for Big Ten
Player of the Year.

national spotlight, the Wolverines
played a cupcake schedule. East-
ern Michigan, Florida Gulf Coast
and then-winless North Carolina
Central brought down Michigan's
RPI. But all lowly no-name teams
aside, when Selection Sunday rolls
around, those early statement
wins will highlight an impressive
resum.

The Wolverines' 3-1 Big Ten
recordis alittle deceptive. Illinois,
Indiana and Iowa, Michigan's
three wins, are a combined 3-7
in conference play. And the Wol-
verines have benefited from play-
ing three games at Crisler Arena.
They have rebounded nicely since
Dec. 31's loss to Wisconsin, rip-
ping off the three straight wins.

But Michigan's only dominant
performance of the conference
season was last Sunday, when the
team flexed its defensive muscles
and held Iowa to 49 points. The
Wolverines earn a passing grade
simply because they've won the
games they were supposed to win
but haven't upset a conference
contender.

U BIG TEN TITLE HC

Michigan State is good - like,
really good. The Spartans are still
favorites to win the conference
crown, but right now, spots two
through nine are toss-ups. For the
first time in a while, the Big Ten is
actually competitive. It's early, and
you'll have to wait a couple weeks
to see legitimate top contenders
emerge. But with a 3-1 conference
record already, the Wolverines
are right in the mix to finish near
the top. They'll need to steal some
wins on the road and protect their
home floor, but at this point, more
losses than wins in the conference
would be a disappointment.

4

WANT TO WRITE FOR DAILY
SPORTS?
E-MAIL
REID@MI4ICHIGANDAILY.COM.
YES, IT'S THAT SIMPLE.

SAID ALSALAH/Daly
"Sophomore Manny Harris leads Michi-
gan with more than 18 points per game.

CHRIS SWEoA/AP
Senior Goran Suton has been a domi-
nant paint presence for the Spartans.

BIG DANCE HOPES:

OVERALL:,-

At this point in the season,
the Wolverines are sitting pret-
ty. Michigan has three wins
against teams with RPIs in the
top 40, and its "worst" loss was
on the road against Maryland
- the same Terrapin team that
walloped Michigan State 80-62
on Nov. 27. Also, no team in

college basketball has a pair of
bigger wins than over two elite
teams like UCLA and Duke. If
Michigan can go .500 or above
in conference play and grab a
win in the Big Ten Tournament,
the Wolverines should be a lock
for the Big Dance, where they
haven't been since 1998.

If one tells you he or she pre-
dicted Michigan would be where
it is right now, he or she is a bold-
faced liar. Michigan matched last
year's win total before the confer-
ence season even started, and it
shows no signs of slowing down.
Michigan's may not be an elite
national-title contender, or even

a conference-title contender, but
there's no denying that Beilein's
squad has improved by leaps and
bounds. For a program that hasn't
made the NCAA Tournament
since 1998, fans can't ask for more
than a 13-3 record and a reason to
get excited about Michiganbasket-
ball again.

4

Grades issued by: Jason Kohler, Ruth Lincoln, Alex Prosperi and Andy Reid
Blueliners make for dominant duo

4

Acting captain
Summers teaches
freshman Burlon
the ropes
By MICHAEL EISENSTEIN
Daily Sports Editor
After the Michigan hockey
team's 5-1 win over Miami (Ohio)
on Friday, junior acting captain
Chris Summers was quick to
explain his and fellow linemate
freshman Brandon Burlon's offen-
sive success from the blue line.
The two defensemen notched
the game's first two tallies, which
gave the Wolverines an insur-
mountable lead less than four
minutes into the first period on
their way to posting a combined
plus-six rating. Burlon also added
an assist.
Summers's explanation?
"I teach him everything he
knows," Summers said with a
laugh, while Burlon sat a couple
chairs away. !

The chemistry between the
duo has translated seamlessly
onto the ice. Burlon and Summers
have skated together for the past
eight games, amassing an impres-
sive five goals, nine assists and a
plus-21 rating.
"You have two intelligent play-
ers, first off, and they both obvi-
ously like to join the rush and get
involved offensively," Michigan
assistant coach Billy Powers said.
"But they're doing a good job of
playing off each other.
"No question that they've
sparked. They've hit it off, chem-
istry-wise."
Burlon's and Summers's offen-
sive games naturally complement
each other - Burlon prefers to
puck handle, while Summers likes
to skate with the puck. And Pow-
ers said each is very good at play-
ing it safe defensively when the
other joins the offensive rush.
But while their chemistry has
resulted in very solid offensive
statistics, their back-and-forth
communication has also helped
the rest of the team's defensive
play eacti weekend.

"That's really evident during
the game," Summers said. "We've
practiced it in practice, and we try
to talk to (goalie Bryan) Hogan
and the centers, make sure every-
one's talking when we have to go.
We play off each other."
At the very beginning of the
season, both Burlon and Summers
were thrown into unexpected
situations. Burlon, an Ontario
native, got a late start to the year
when he sat out eight games with
an ankle injury.
Summers, on the other hand,
was given with added responsibil-
ity after captain Mark Mitera tore
his anterior cruciate ligament in
the season opener. Summers was
preparing to move to forward in
the preseason, but Mitera's seri-
ous injury forced the junior back
to the blue line, while also adjust-
ing to his promotion from alter-
nate to acting captain.
Yet despite the obstacles, Sum-
mers, the Phoenix Coyotes' 2006
first-round NHL draft pick, con-
tinued to improve on defense. He
now "might be the best defense-
man in this league," actebrding to

Powers.'
And Burlon, the New Jersey
Devils' 2008 second-round pick,
who Powers describes as "a very,
very, very intelligent hockey play-
er," has matured quickly as a play-
er since becoming a Wolverine.
So when the two came togeth-
er, Summers's impact on Burlon
and the resulting chemistry was
not surprising.
"Playing with a young fresh-
man, he's bringing him along,"
Michigan coach Red Berenson
said. "They're giving us a defense
pair we have a lot of confidence
in."
And Burlon is enjoying the
experience of learning from the
team's most seasoned healthy
blueliner.
"He's done a great job of tak-
ing me under his wing, showing
me the ins and outs and where I'm
going wrong and complimenting
me when I'm doing things right,"
Burlon said. "I look up to a guy
like him."
"Hopefully, we stay together
and keep doing the things we've
been doing." b

4

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