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February 22, 2011 - Image 8

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8 - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

8- Tuesday, February 22, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Lack of 3-pointers doesn't
mean lack of offense for Blue

BASEBALL
New bat rules could
lower home run total

By LUKE PASCH
Daily Sports Writer.
Nearly three weeks ago, in
Columbus, the Michigan men's
basketball team shot 19 3-point-
ers in a 62-53 loss to then-No. 1
Ohio State. It was the first time
since mid-December and just the
third time all season the Wol-
verines attempted fewer than 20
shots from beyond the arc.
Then, in the four subsequent
games - against Penn State,
Northwestern, Indiana and
Illinois - the team shot 19, 15,
15 and 18 triples, respectively.
But in Saturday's 75-72 win at
Iowa, Michigan returned to its
shooting-happy form, firing 20
3-pointers.
Every team knows the rap on
Michigan coach John Beilein's
offense - be wary of his shoot-
ers. He runs a guard-heavy sys-
tem, and the only player hesitant
to launch one from 3-point terri-
tory is his center.
And at the beginning of Big
Ten play, that seemed like the
perfect offense for the Wolver-
ines. As an undersized, under-
experienced and relatively
unathietic squad, it provided
the opportunity for upsets. If
the team was shooting well on a
given night, it had the potential
to beat pretty much any team in
the nation.
Better yet, the system gave
Beilein's frontcourt contingent
- one of the youngest groups of
forwards in the nation - time
to develop. The big men were
used sparingly enough that
they weren't consistently pres-
sured to score in the paint, but
they were active enough for the
offense to avoid becoming com-
pletely one-dimensional.
So, why the sudden change
lately?
Well, against the Buckeyes,
the Wolverinep didn't haveamuch
of a choice. Ohio State coach
Thad Matta drew up a master-
ful defensive gameplan, and his
players executed it well for 40

ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily
Redshirt freshman forward Jordan Morgan has been an important part of Michigan's success in the paint this season.

By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Writer
They say chicks dig the long
ball.
The chicks, then, must have
loved when former Wolverine first
baseman Mike Dufek hit a walk-
off solo home run last year against
Northwestern to complete one of
the most improbable comebacks in
Michigan baseball history. Down
14 runs after three innings, Michi-
gan rode four home runs to a 15-14
victory. The comeback was shock-
ing, to say the least.
What's equally as shocking is
that had the game been played
a year later, Dufek's blast might
never have left the park.
Effective this season, the NCAA
has imposed strict new standards
for the metal bats used in colle-
giate play. According to sophomore
centerfielder Patrick Biondi, Mich-
igan coach Rich Maloney told the
team that the NCAA expects home
run totals to be cut in half.
The standards, announced in
2008, are partially in response to
an increase in offensive numbers
in the past five years. The NCAA
citeda41-percentincrease inhome
runs per game from 2006 to 2009
as evidence that bat technology
has beenimprovingtoo rapidly..
According to a news release on
the NCAA's website, "The goal is
for non-wood bats that meet this
new standard to perform similarly
to wood bats."
The main issue the NCAA's
Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitu-
tion certification addresses is the
trampoline-like effect of modern
metal bats by measuring and limit-
ing a bat's "bounciness." Normally,
when a baseball meets a bat, the
ball compresses and in the process
loses some energy. Butnewer com-
posite bats only have a thin outer
layer of metal that compresses
instead, springing the ball forward
like a trampoline.
Michigan is ateam with little
power to begin with. Aside from
junior designated hitter Coley
Crank, who had 14 home runs last
year, the rest of the team's return-

ing players totaled just 13 home
runs all last season. The Wolver-
ines don't have much power to lose.
But their lack of dependence
on home runs can actually be an
advantage. Unlike teams who rely
heavily on the long ball, Michigan
does not stand to lose much offen-
sive production from the new bats.
"These bat standards couldn't
have come at a better time," senior
second baseman Anthony Toth
said. "We are a small-ball team.
Coach has always preached that.
It really plays into our hands really
well. We have a lot of speed, we
have good defense, we're going to
have solid pitching, and the bats
are going to play intoour favor."
Even for a small-ball team, the
new bats require an even more
intense focus on fundamentals.
Maloney said the team has put in
extra work this offseason on things
like bunts, steals and hit-and-runs.
With more emphasis on funda-
mentals, the Wolverines will have
to clean up their play in the field.
While normally solid defensively,
Michigan committed six costly
errors in three games during the
Big Ten/Big East Challenge last
weekend.
The average of two errors per
game almost doubles the Wol-
verines' average from last season.
But the team can look to improve
as they get more game experience
outdoors.
Of course, the overall formula
for success in baseball remains
unchanged: timely hitting, defense
and, most importantly, pitching.
Redshirtsophomore pitcher Bobby
Brosnahan said he doesn't plan on
changing the way he attacks hit-
ters.
"You've been doing it your
whole life, you pitch the same
way," Brosnahan said. "But I think
pitchers are goingto be able to get
away with more. Hanging curve-
balls aren'tgoingto be hit500 feet.
It's still going to get out of the yard,
but ldon't thinkyou'regoingtoasee
as many balls fly outcof the yard if
they don't really square it up."
The chicks may not dig that, but
the pitchers certainly will.

minutes of basketball.
"They had a great gameplan
to try and take our shooters
away from it and try to sag off
our big men," sophomore point
guard Darius Morris said after
the game. "(Ohio State forward
Jared) Sullinger was at the hole
just waiting for me if I did break
down the defense. And then,
they had good ball pressure on
me. They really wanted to take
our shooters out of the game and
make us dribble drive."
The Wolverines were caught
off guard and mustered just
53 points against the Buckeye
defense.
Beilein knew that teams
would start watching the game
film from Value City Arena ear-
lier this month. As opponents
started keying in on the perim-
eter shooters, his post players
would have to grow up quickly,
and the guards would have to
start penetrating instead of
swinging the ball around the
perimeter.

They did just that.
As defenders spread out to
the arc, lanes started opening
up inside. Junior guards Zack
Novak and Stu Douglass, and
even sophomore Matt Vogrich,
started executing on backdoor
cuts to the hoop. And if they
were ever stopped in the key by
a post defender coming up from
help-side, redshirt freshman
center Jordan Morgan was often
left open in the paint.
Indeed, Morgan has benefited
on the offensive end - he's aver-
aged nearly 14 points over the
five games since that matchup in
Columbus.
"A lot of times, offensive suc-
cess comes from the game plan
from the opposing team," assis-
tant coach Bacari Alexander said
after Morgan scored 27 points
against Northwestern. "Today,
we saw a situation where Jordan
Morgan was rolling to the basket
and they elected to stay with our
shooters. What ended up hap-
pening was Jordan was open

with so many opportunities at.
the rim."
Perhaps most surprising was
the success Michigan found
underneath at Illinois last week.
Though the Wolverines lost,
54-52, they actually outscored
the Fighting Illini in the paint,
36-34. And considering some
of the home team's premiere
frontcourt talent - 7-foot-1
senior Mike Tisdale and 6-foot-9
seniors Mike Davis and Bill Cole
- that feat should not go unno-
ticed.
It's possible, then, that Beilein
now is feeling bittersweet about
getting swept by the Buckeyes
this season. It never feels great
to lose to a hated rival, but
thanks to Ohio State, this Michi-
gan squad has learned to balance
its outside shooting and driving
much more effectively.
With three games left in the
regular season and an NCAA
Tournament berth on the line,
Beilein and his team found that
balance atjust the right time.

Better defensive play
would get 'M'to St. Paul

WRESTLING
Wrestling through adversity,
Biondo pursues championship

Just over a month ago, I
wrote a column about the
Michigan hockey team's
irrelevance on the national
scene. It was sitting in second
place behind
Notre Dame
in the CCHA,
but it still
hadn't shown
me anything.
If you
wantedto
have a conver- MARK
sation about BURNS
the Wolver-
ines possibly
competing for a national title this
season, Iwouldhavetoldyou,
"Sorry, butcthisteam just doesn't
have it in them. Maybe next year
Red Berenson will win his third
NCAA title."
"You hope to peak atthe right
time," senior forward Louie Capo-
russo added on Jan. 13. "You want
to stay positive obviously, and you
want to say thatthe team is head-
ed in the rightdirection. I mean,
that's the obvious answer.
"The real answer will lie in
what we do from here on out. I
mean, you can speculate and you
can predict that you think your
team is going inthe rightdirec-
tion, but it's notgoing to do much
if you're not making that happen."
Following those comments,
Michigan swept four of five con-
ference series - three of which
have come in the friendly confines
of Yost Ice Arena. During that
stretch, Berenson has received
stellar goaltending from senior
Shawn Hunwick, and barring any
season-ending injury, it looks like
Michigan will ride the Sterling
Heights, Mich. native forthe rest
of the season.
Some of Michigan's big guns
have also resurfaced, with the
likes of sophomores Chris Brown
and Kevin Lynch combining for

Michigan coach Red Berenson has Michigan ranked second in the CCHA.

eightgoals in that time span.
So, in a sense, Michigan is going
in the right direction. But there's
just one slight issue - defense.
Don't get me wrong. At times
this season, Michigan's team
defense has been pretty solid.
Just ask the world-record setting
crowd in attendance at The Big
Chill. The Wolverines currently
rank 10th nationally, allowing just
2.38 goals per game.
But despitethe their success in
the past six weeks, it seems that
during every press conference, the
comments aboutplaying better
defensively surface.
This past Friday, after Michi-
gan's 6-3 win over Western Michi-
gan, Berenson called a few of the
Broncos' goals "too easy," and
added thatthe team mighthave
been a little too relaxful in its own
end.
And it's not just coming from
the coachingcstaff - the players
are beingcandid and calling a
spade a spade.
"We emphasized tightening
it up a little bit," junior defense-
man Greg Pateryn said following
Friday's game. "We were too loose
after the second period. They got
17 shots there in the second, and

we wanted to focus on defense and
keep as many chances out as we
could."
You could pinpoint other areas
of the Michigan hockeyteam and
possibly say, "Hey, the power play
has been hit or missfor most of the
season. That's where the Wolver-
ines need the most work."
Or how about, "They still don't
have a super-star player who can
take over any game at the drop of
a hat."
No, the fact still remains: more
attentionto detail in the defensive
zone and abetter awareness of
the opposing players on the ice
will bring Michigan into national
contention. The Wolverines are
clearly headed in the right direc-
tion. To sayanything else would
be downright wrong. A few
tweaks here and there with the
defensive mindset of the team, and
you could be purchasing just a few
more postseason tickets.
The road's paved, and the car's
gassed up and ready to go.
Now it'sjust time for Michigan
to point it north to St. Paul, Min-
nesota.
- Burns can be reached
at burnmark@umich.edu

By DANIEL WASSERMAN
Daily Sports Writer
On November 19, 2010 in
Bethlehem, Penn., the final 10
seconds were ticking away in
fifth-year senior captain Antho-
ny Biondo's match. Michigan
wrestling was trailing Lehigh,
but things looked bright for
Biondo - then ranked No. 8 -
who was leading 14th-ranked
Joe Kennedy.
Coming off a season in which
he finished just a win shy of All-
American status, both Biondo
and the young Wolverines could
see greatness right in front of
them.
But inside Biondo's 197-pound
frame, things weren't okay. And
suddenly, things on the mats
weren't either - Biondo's body
gave way with just three seconds
remaining.
"I was feeling horrible," Bion-
do said Monday. "I prpbably
shouldn't have wrestled, but I
wrestled and I was winning, but
I just fell apart and the kid came
back and beat me in overtime."
Showing the grittiness and
drive that earned him captain
status this season, he pushed
through the ensuing weeks until
he was forced to withdraw from
the Cliff Keen Invitationals on
Dec. 4. His forfeiture drew him
8th place, afar cry from Biondo's
usual success - he had moped up
to No. 2 nationally by then.
Biondo visited a specialist,
where he learned he was suffer-
ing from colitis - a disease that
causes the colon to swell.
"It felt like I had a really bad
sickness and I wrestled through
it all the way through the (Cliff
Keen Invitational)," Biondo said.
"For a couple of weeks, I was
having some really bad perfor-
mances ... I was diagnosed with
colitis. That was really tough."

As if
receivi
ering,
nativec
'"For
of the
after a
Joe M
constar
him he
good j
though
For
would'
the exi
for his
But not
"I
hoi
I w:
1w
"I ca
high e
nationa
Americ
tally, Ir
little bi
but (m
nitely
like in
what h
if I ac
March.
I'm not
struggl
Afte
matchl
Wolver
overall
to ma
play. T
ships b
March
"It's

that wasn't enough, after Biondo said. "There's been a
ng treatment and recov- couple times when I lost, but the
the Clinton Township team still won. You never want
caught the flu. to lose, but if the team's doing
most of the first half well, it still makes you feel a lit-
year, it's been one thing tle better. That's one thing I defi-
nother," Michigan coach nitely wanted is to have a good,
cFarland said. "It was a competitive team my last year
nt struggle trying to keep and it's been awesome."
althy. I thought he did a And now Biondo is feeling
ob of battling through it, better and beginning to return
." to last season's stature. Now
some, the struggles ranked No. 11 after slipping in
ve been enough to erase the polls, he's won six of his last
pectations Biondo had set nine matches dating back to Jan-
nself prior to the season. uary 16.
Biondo. As his collegiate career winds
down, Biondo has one final
chance to chase his dreams of
being a national champion. And
was feeling his coach stands behind him,
fully expecting to see a final
rrible ...) but push out of his senior leader.
"The best for him is still
restled and I ahead of him," McFarland said.
.i n." "Anthony's a great kid, he really
iS win ng. is. From the time he's gotten
here, he's been really focused
on his wrestling and on his aca-
demics. He's done just a tremen-
ame into the season with dous job at balancing those two. S
'xpectations of being a He's never given us any problem
al champion and an All- at all. He's one of the guys that
an," Biondo said. "Men- dips his nose to the grindstone
might've doubted myself a and keeps working hard. He's a
it when I was not healthy, neat kid and I think everybody's
y preseason goals) defi- going to miss him."
haven't changed. Just Biondo can now wipe his slate
any sport, it just matters of 105 career wins clean as he
appens in the end. And heads into the postseason. But
complish what I want in the memories he forged between
really, this past season, all those wins - and losses -
t going to remember (the will never be forgotten.
les)." "I feel like it's cliche, but just
r not winning a Big Ten the friendships, the experiences
last year, the 11th-ranked with the guys, whether it's trav-
ines (5-3 Big Ten, 11-5 eling or bus trips, a good win,
) are in prime position or just after practice goofing
ke noise in postseason around, I'll look back at it at the
the Big Ten Champion- end of the day, and those are the
egin the first weekend of things you can never recreate,"
in Evanston. Biondo said. "That's the stuff I'll
helped me persevere," miss the most."

A

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