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January 31, 2011 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-01-31

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2B - January 31, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

2B - January 31, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Novak, Ann Arbor's
newest folk hero

nn Arbor, it seems you
finally have your folk
sports hero.
Watching Thursday's game
- a season-
changing win
for Michigan
basketball on
the road at
the Breslin
Center - it
became strik-
ingly clear RYAN
that Zack KARTJE
Novak is dif-
ferent from
any other student-athlete at the
University of Michigan.
Novak has never been a
superstar athlete. But last year,
he spent most of the season
guarding guys that were at least
four or five inches taller than
him.
Novak has also never been
the Wolverines' scorer. This
season, he's averaging just a
tick under 10 points, trailing
both Darius Morris and Tim
Hardaway Jr. in total scoring.
But chances are, when it really
counts, the junior guard is the
one making the baskets.
Since Big Ten season began,
Novak has been on an absolute
tear - far and away the team's
best overall player. Against con-
ference opponents, the Ches-
terton, Indiana native has only
come up short of double-digit
scoring in one game - Michi-
gan's tough loss to Northwest-
ern in mid-January.
But as Michigan State began
charging back in the second half
on Thursday and coach John
Beilein called a timeout, Novak
stormed into the huddle and
emerged as the obvious leader
of this team. He screamed with
a passion I haven't seen out of
any Michigan player on the

court in some time.
And it worked.
His team came out and held
on to end the Wolverines' awful
winless streak against Michi-
gan State, thanks to a handful
of 3-point beauties from Novak
himself.
"We are a young team with a
lot of guys that are kind of naive
because they're young," Novak
said at Big Ten media day. "They
don't know that they're not
supposed to win some of these
games. They don't know that
they should lose to teams like
Kansas. So youth can help us."
Through more than half of
the season, I'd say youth has
helped the Wolverines in plenty
of games, one of them being
last Thursday in East Lansing.
Young players tend to rely on
hot streaks in big games and the
Wolverines just happened to be
boiling against the Spartans.
It was exactly how Novak had
predicted.
Novak, like the team around
him, didn't have much hype
surrounding his 2011 season.
Despite being one of the team's
veterans, fellow junior guard
Stu Douglass always seemed to
be billed as the better shooter,
better scorer, better ballhan-
dler. Novak was often relegated
to the grinder's role.
He was left out of the start-
ing lineup on more than one
occasion for a younger, high-
potential product of Beilein's
offense. But Novak continued to
push for playing time. Now, he's
an absolutely indispensable part
of the Michigan offense.
And that's the best part about
watching Novak play. He's a
player any Michigan fan could
get behind.
He's a ballhawk on the
boards. You'd never know he's

just a 6-foot-4 guard, especially
if you're looking at the stat
sheet, where Novak leads the
team in rebounds per game.
He's preparing to shatter the
Michigan record books when
it comes to 3-point shooting.
With another year remaining,
he's already a staple in the top
10 in Wolverine history, and if
he keeps shooting like he did
against the Spartans, he'll have
a comfortable lead at the top
when his career is done.
And Novak isn't not afraid to
get his hands dirty. Any guard
who's willing to go up against
the Big Ten's fiercest post play-
ers, deserves a certain respect
that most players will never
find. I bet if you gave Novak a
chance, he would've guarded
Ohio State's Jared Sullinger in a
heartbeat.
Novak is becoming the kind
of player you know you'll talk
about 20 years from now with
your buddies, sitting around the
garage and remembering that
huge 3-pointer he hit against
the Spartans in 2011.
Or the buzzer beater he made
in the first round of the 2011
NCAA Tournament (wishful
thinking?).
Regardless, Novak has
stamped himself as the leader of
this Michigan team - a squad
that desperately needed a blue-
collar, smooth-as-silk shooting,
ballhawking, clutch type of bas-
ketball player.
And with no expectations, no
star players and plenty of poten-
tial, Novak could carry the odd-
est Michigan basketball team
in history to somewhere no one
would've thought possible back
in November.

01

Senior forward Loule Caporusso has scored more goals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit than in Yost Ice Arena this season.
Caporussoshines indefeat

By STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily SportsEditor
DETROIT - Maybe Louie
Caporusso just needed to enter
the familiar confines of Joe
Louis Arena one last time.
The senior forward entered
Saturday's contest against Mich-
igan State riding one of the worst
stretches of his career - held
scoreless in the last month with
only a pair of goals since the
beginning of December.
But Caporusso was one of the
few bright spots for the No. 6
Michigan hockey team in a frus-
trating 2-1 loss to the Spartans,
scoring the Wolverines' lone
tally in the waning moments of
the second period.
Just 37 seconds after Michi-
gan State scored the first goal
of the game, Caporusso took
a feed from senior forward
Scooter Vaughan on the right
side of the Spartan net. Capo-
russo cut across the crease in
front of goalie Will Yanakeff,
shifted over the downed goal-
tender, and as he went airborne,
he tapped in the loose puck on
the right side of Yanakeff for his
eighth goal..
It was a finesse move display-
ing the type of goal-scoring flair
the Wolverines haven't seen
often from their alternate cap-
tain this season.
Considering his history at the
Joe - 18 points in 18 games - it

shouldn't have been surprising
for Caporusso to play hero and
knot the game at such an impor-
tant juncture. But the Cana-
dian's cold snap has rattled him
worse than the bone-chilling
Ann Arbor weather, and he was
just as relieved as the Michigan
fans in the audience.
"It felt great," Caporusso said
with a laugh. "It's tough. When
you're not scoring it becomes
impossible to score. But once you
get one you feel like a large load
is lifted off your shoulders. It felt
really good."
And it's not the first time he's
felt this way.
On the same date last year
(Jan. 29), Caporusso battled sim-
ilar odds. He had scored twice in
two months and had almost the
exact same statistics - six goals
and 13 assists last season versus
seven goals and 14 assists as a
senior. But Caporusso rebound-
ed to tally 26 points in the final
19 games to finish as the team's
top goal scorer.
Caporusso, a self-proclaimed
second-half performer, may
have shrugged the perennial
monkey off his back on Saturday,
but it was difficult for Michigan
coach Red Berenson to accept
the silver lining in the team's
first loss in six games.
"The bottom line is you lose
the game, it doesn't matter who
scores or who does well, the
team doesn't win, and that's the

important thing," Berenson said
on Saturday. "But I think some
players took a step forward and
some took a step backward."
One of the skaters noticeably
absent from the box score on
Saturday was senior forward
Carl Hagelin, whose scoreless
night ended a nine-game point
streak during which he added
19 points. But while Hagelin's
streak ended, so did Caporusso's
drought.
Though Hagelin carried
the Wolverines during the last
two months, it will be vital to
have both players contributing
regularly. In the final 19 games
of Michigan's NCAA regional
semifinals run last season, Hage-
lin and Caporusso combined for
48 points.
If history is any indicator, the
key to Michigan's success may
have just have needed a trip
down memory lane and up the
steps of Joe Louis Arena to find
his scoring touch. The second-
period goal was Caporusso's
second of the season at the Joe
- one more than he's scored in
a dozen appearances at Yost this
season.
"I love it here, I don't know
what it is, it's just my place,"
Caporusso said. "It's just a
dream come true. I've always
watched the Red Wings play
here, and I never thought I'd be
playing here this much and be
having so much success here."

- Kartje can be reached
at rkartje@umich.edu

Smotrycz takes step forward .
in decisive win over Hawkeyes

By BEN ESTES
Daily Sports Writer
Conference play hasn't
always been kind to Evan
Smotrycz.
The axiom goes that the true
test of a freshman's mettle is
how he responds during the
grind of the conference season
- especially in a league as deep
and physical as the Big Ten.
Smotrycz has seen it first-
hand. The freshman forward
has struggled at times for the
Michigan men's basketball team
in recent weeks. He failed to
score a single point in the Jan.
12 game against then-No. 2 Ohio
State and against No. 25 Michi-
gan State this past Thursday.
That just makes his perfor-
mance in the Wolverines' 87-73
victory over Iowa (1-8 Big Ten,
8-13 overall) on Sunday all the
more impressive. Smotrycz
played just 19 minutes against
the Hawkeyes but still man-
aged to score 14 points, shooting
5-of-6 from the field, including
4-of-5 from 3-point range.
When sophomore point
guard Darius Morris penetrat-
ed the lane in one of his many
drives to the basket, Smotrycz
was waiting on the wing and
ready to knock down shots. He
said afterwards that a game like
the one he had is big for his con-
fidence.
"I'm pretty comfortable
(during conference games),"
Smotrycz said. "It's just, as a
shooter, you can't let dry spells
affect you. I kind of try to have
some amnesia and just shoot it,
knock them down when they're
open.
"It's tough (to rebound from
bad performances) but I think a

game l
Smo
despite
The H
defens
the ga
strugg
when
Gophe
holdin
16 sho
second
And
fied its
the W
threats
perim
wings
toward

ike this definitely helps." dling and the finish was cool ...
trycz shot well, too, He kind of moves so slow that I
e Iowa's constant zoning. think he surprises other teams
awkeyes switched to a 2-3 because he moves at his own
e for large stretches of pace and he gets by people and
me. Michigan (3-6, 13-9) it works."
led to attack the zone Another issue for the fresh-
Minnesota used it in the man has been staying out of foul
rs' 69-64 win on Jan. 22, trouble. It's a problem magni-
g the Wolverines to 5-of- fied by the fact that fellow for-
oting from deep in the ward Jordan Morgan often has
i half. the same difficulties, thinning
Iowa even slightly modi- the Wolverines' frontcourt.
scheme to guard against Smotrycz did a better job
olverines' array of deep against the Hawkeyes, not com-
s, cheating up to the mitting a foul until four minutes
eter with their bottom had elapsed in the second half.
whenever the ball moved "(I'm) definitely conscious of
ds the corners. it," Smotrycz said. "(Assistant)
coach Bacari (Alexander) says
that fouls happen when you're
just not in position defensively.
I kind of try I just try to make an effort to
move in there in time, and just
to have get in the right position so I
don't get cheap ones and have
imnesia and that ruin the flow of the game."
Michigan coach John Beilein
st shoot it." said after the game that up-
and-down performances are to
be expected from young play-

"1
a
it

But Michigan - and
Smotrycz in particular - was
able to shoot over the Hawk-
eyes. And the 6-foot-9 forward
displayed some versatility that
he has rarely shown this sea-
son. His lone 2-point basket
came from a Morris-like drive
through the paint, punctuated
by a nifty layup. The shot put
Michigan up 45-25 and forced
Iowa totake a timeout.
"It was cool to see him do
that, because we make fun
of him for being just a shoot-
er," sophomore walk-on Josh
Bartlestein said. "For him to
do that, and to see the ball han-

ers.
"You certainly can see that
that happens quite often," Bei-
ein said. "And it depends on
who we're playing sometimes
as well, but Evan has really
worked hard in practice. Some-
times it's a matchup, sometimes
it's the defense - there's alot of
things that he's learning about
- but he's learning every day."
But because the Wolverines
often live and die bythe 3-point-
er - and because Smotrycz is
a starter and a player heavily
relied upon to make perimeter
shots - it's critical for Michigan
to get more "ups" than "downs"
from him.

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