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February 16, 2011 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-02-16

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8A - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Michigan Daily -- rnichigandaily.com

Wolverines look to overcome B
an imposing Illini frontcourt
Michigan travels
NTERVIEW BY
to Assembly Hall, LUKE PASCH
Lri ... a.1',,,,,.,.. DAILY SPORTS WRITER

01

wne Ie ithasnt won
since 1995
By CHANTEL JENNINGS
Daily Sports Editor
The last time the Michigan
men's basketball team beat Illi-
nois at Assembly Hall, most of
the current players were enroll-
ing in kindergarten.
Tonight, the Wolverines (6-7
Big Ten, 16-10 overall) are hoping
to hand the Fighting Illini their
third home loss of the season.
If Michigan
can take down Mich"' n
Illinois, it will
be the Wolver- at Illinois
ines' first win Matchup:
in Champaign Illinois 16-9;
since 1995. Michigan
But with the 16-10
strength of the When:
Big Ten and Wednesday
each individual 7:30pm.
team's ability Where:
to win at home, Assembly Hall
nearly every TV/Radio:
game - despite BTN
ranking - has
been a toss-up.
Most recently, then-No. 14 Wis-
consin upset the top-ranked and
undefeated Buckeyes in Madi- Sophomore point guard Darius Morris a
son, showing that no team is safe
on the road, for a lot of teams to play at,"
"I think that (the Big Ten) Beilein said. "I'm sure they're
is all about who you're playing hungry. We're going to try to be
and where you're playing them," at the same mindset that they
Michigan coach John Beilein have. Hopefully we can battle
said Tuesday. "I think that has a them to the end, and if (you're in
lot to do with the ups and downs it) at the end, you can win it."
that we all try to explain to each
other. It's pretty simple - you're
playing tough teams at home,
on the road, the ball is going to "You're in
bounce your way, it's not going to
bounce your way." position, the
So far this season, the Wolver-
ines are 2-4 on the road against opportunities
Big Ten competition, with big
wins coming at then-No. 25 are there."
Michigan State and Penn State.
When Michigan faced off against
the Spartans, the Wolverines
hadn't won in the Breslin Center The Wolverines are coming off
since 1997. two games where they struggled
But when the Wolverines beat to hold a lead in the final part of
the Illini atAssembly Hall last, it the game - Northwestern went
was Jimmy King and Ray Jack- on a 14-0 run in the final min-
son who led Michigan to a vic-" utes of the game against Michi-
tory. gan and Indiana went on an 18-5
"It's always been a tough place run to cut into the Wolverines'

AT BIG TEN MEDIA DAY IN OCTOBER, THE
ILLINI SAT DOWN WITH THE DAILY TO
TALK ABOUT THE UPCOMING SEASON.

JAMESWEAVER/Daily
verages seven assists and 15 points a game for the Wolverines.

The Michigan Daily: What does
your team have to do to get back
to the tournament this year?
Demetri McCamey: We need
to show more toughness down
the stretch at the end of games.
We need to not lose that mental
focus and (not stop) having that
killer instinct. That's something
we've talked about this summer
- having that killer instinct, and
putting teams away.
Mike Davis: (Play better)
defense. Our defense has to dic-
tate our offense. We need to get
steals, get runouts, get stops. I
think if we do that, we'll be a
very successful team, because
we can score the ball, obviously.
Mike Tisdale: I think what
we've been doing is really what
we need to continue to do. Obvi-
ously, last year was tough, but
this year we have a new focus,
a new energy. The new guys
came in, busted into competi-
tion in practice. Coach (Bruce
Weber) is focusing on defense
alone, and I think that's going
to help us win games.
TMD: It certainly helps in col-
lege basketball to have two big
men of the caliber that you guys
do. Mike (Davis), what have you
seen out of Tisdale in the paint,
and Demetri, as a guard, what
does it add to your team to have
that pair down low?
MD: (Tisdale's) gotten bigger
and stronger, so he's a little
harder and stronger (in prac-
tice) than last year ... He's been
showing me little tricks on how
to step in front of people, how
to swim move around people.
DM: (Tisdale and Davis) have
been playing with each other
since freshman year and have
that chemistry, that one-two
punch in the post. And they
have that high-low (game and)
that mid-range jumpshot down

pat. So that'll help give us a lot
of depth in the frontcourt.
TMD: No matter how good
Michigan is expected to be,
under coach John Beilein, the
Wolverines have always had a
style that opponentsfind difficult
to prepare for. What makes it so
tough to play Michigan, year-in
and year-out?
DM: Their shooting ability.
They'll put up a lot of threes,
and they have a lot of great
3-point shooters. Once they
start hitting them and clicking,
and getting that (1-3-1) zone
going, they're going to be that
much tougher to score on. And
you still have to stop the three
... It's just really tough.
MD: Shooting. Any given night,
if they get hot, it's going to be
a long night. They're a smaller
team - they're not really big.
You know, I have to guard
(Zack) Novak. He's a guard -
he's 6-foot-6, I'm 6-foot-9, try-
ing to run around, chasing him
off the screen. So it's a little
different, but they have great
shooters. It'll be a tough game
again. It's always a tough game
with them ... It's just really
tough.
TMD: What do you look forward
to most about playing in the Big
Ten every season?
MT: It's exciting. It's one of the
best conferences in the country
- maybe the best. Obviously,
there are some of the best play-
ers, so it's going to be fun to
compete against them.
DM: I'm looking forward to
everybody ... This is the num-
ber-one conference in the
country, so night-in, night-out,
you're going to play against a
good player. But at the end of
the day, I just want to be the
best player in the league, so I'm
looking forward to everybody.

20-point cushion.
A win over Illinois (6-6, 16-9)
could push Michigan into the top
five in the Big Ten standings, a
spot that would almost ensure a
postseason berth if the Wolver-
ines could hold it until the end of
the season. But the team is try-
ing to take it one game at a time,
knowing that in its past three
games, any loss could have put
them out of discussion.
With five games remaining
before the Big Ten Tournament
- three of which are on the road
- the Wolverines will need to
turn their focus to an Illinois
team that is full of length and
size. The frontcourt may possess
the most size Michigan has seen
since it faced off against Minne-
sota in late January. The Illini's
starting post contingent of Bill
Cole, Mike Davis and Mike Tis-
dale stand at a staggering line of
6-foot-9, 6-foot-9 and 7-foot-1.
Additionally, sophomore point
guard Darius Morris will match

up with another elite floor gen-
eral in senior Demetri McCamey,
who is 13 assists away from
becoming just the second player
in Illinois history to reach 700
assists. The senior is the active'
NCAA leader in assists.
"I talked to them (Monday),
and I said, 'This is the last time
we're going to talk about it, I
believe. Maybe we will one more
time. Here's where it is. You
put yourself in a position. If you
had gone 1-2 or 2-1 in those last
three games, you wouldn't be in
this position. You're in position,
the opportunities are there,' "
Beilein said. "The opportunity is
there.
"If we come away with wins,
it puts us in a better position. If
we don't, then we're not ready to
do that yet. It's like a five-game
tournament, let's see what we
can do."
See a multimedia piece about
this story on MichiganDaily.com

BASEBALL
Blue must answer early season questions in Fla.

By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Writer
There will be no time to work
out the early season kinks when
the Michigan baseball team
steps off of its plane and into the
Florida heat on Friday.
When the Wolverines touch
down for their three-team,
three-game series, they'll find
themselves in another kind of
heat, facing a trial by fire as
they try to replace five key play-
ers from last year beginning the
toughest schedule in the pro-
gram's history.
Any baseball team from a cli-

mate like Michigan's must deal
with being on the road for a
majority of the early season.
And playing its first 17 games
away from home, the team will
face some unique questions.
Can they handle an early season
schedule stacked with teams like
No. 14 Stanford and, later, Texas
Tech? How will they replace
players like Ryan LaMarre and
Mike Dufek?
"There's several questions
there, but I think they can all
be answered," Michigan coach
Rich Maloney said Tuesday.
"But they need to be answered in
a positive way for us to contend

for a championship."
Some of the answers must
come from new sources. Michi-
gan can expect production out of
veterans like sophomore short-
stop Derek Dennis and resdshirt
senior second baseman Anthony
Toth up the middle, sophomore
Patrick Biondi in centerfield,
and junior Coley Crank at desig-
nated hitter.
But young players must step
up for the team to contend for a
Big Ten title. And fast.
That means players with lim-
ited experience, like redshirt
junior first baseman Garret Ste-
phens, or no experience, like

freshman right fielder Michael
O'Neil, have little time to get
acclimated.
There are no warm-up games
and the competition will be
intense from the start.
That can be a curse or a bless-
ing.
"Coach touched on how they
might start off hot and then hit
that freshman wall," Toth said.
"They'll struggle, but that's just
how it is ... You might need a
freshman to step up and we have
the guys capable of doing that."
Their three-game series
against No. 21 Louisville, No.
22 Connecticut and a St. John's

team that some polls have
ranked inside the top 25, will
be the first time the Wolverines
have played outdoors since the
fall.
This means that the Friday
will be the team's first time field-
ing grounders off of dirt, catch-
ing fly balls and pitching off of a
real mound.
But the tough early season
schedule can provide a great
opportunity.
A few early wins against top
competition can go a long way
in terms of rankings and confi-
dence.
"We're just excited for the

opportunity," Biondi said. "We
got three top 25 teams, top 15
maybe, and that's just a great
opportunity to show that we can
play with anybody ... When we
go out, we expect to win"
Toth, who shares the captain
duties with senior pitcher Kolby
Wood, made that message clear
when he addressed the fans on
Tueday at the team's Meet the
Wolverines event.
"In no way, shape or form are
we intimidated by anyone," he
said.
Seea multimedia piece about
this story on MichiganDaily.com

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