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March 05, 2012 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-03-05

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2B - March 5, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

A toast to (one of) the Big Ten champions

Armed with vitality
and courage to burn,
middle-aged man slowly
lifted his amber ale.
"Cheers," he began.
His voice dripped with brazen
rising above
the clamor
to silence
the table.
His com-
rades turned
toward thei
head of the STEPHEN J.
table and S
reached for NESBITT
their glasses.
"Cheers to
Michigan - we're Big Ten cham-
pions," he said.
The man could have been an
entrepreneur. He could have
been a professor. He could have
been a doctor. But tonight, he
was a Michigan basketball fan,
dressed in his maize hoodie with
"Michigan" splashed across the
chest with boldness that matched
his voice.
The confidence had been
brewing since an early-season
upset against then-No. 8 Mem-
phis at the Maui Invitational. It
bubbled over on Sunday evening.
Earlier in the afternoon, with
one step-back dagger from Ohio
State's William Buford in East
Lansing, Michigan catapulted
alongside the Spartans and Buck-
eyes for a three-way share of the
Big Ten regular-season title -
the Wolverines' first conference
championship since 1986.
Had Ohio State not knocked

track record speaks for itself.
A Big Ten Championship
shouldn't have come so soon. He
lost his touted guard in Morris
and opened the year starting a
senior, three sophomores and a
That's not a lineup that would
be expected to contend for a
championship in the toughest
conference in the game of college
Beilein is a teacher at heart.
And he's an educator that knows
his trade down to an expert level.
He's taken two Michigan teams
into the second round of the
NCAA Tournament, what's to say
he can't do more this time?
Back at Buffalo Wild Wings, a
trio of students plunked down at
a table beside the toastingtroupe.
It wasn't clear, but an educated
guess pegged them as engineers.
"We needed Ohio to beat
Michigan State," one of them
commented, carefully eschewing
the name Ohio State. As filthy as
it felt, Michigan fans were left to
root for a Buckeye win on Sun-
day - or a Michigan State loss, as
some said.
Buford's game-winner was a
thrill, and he was a savior. Then,
cheering just felt wrong.
But it was for the good of
Michigan. A whirlwind Sunday
ended in the best possible way. It
ended in a toast.
So here's to Michigan. Here's
to the champions.
Thanks for making believers
of us all.
- Nesbitt can be reached
at stnesbit@umich.edu.


Freshman guard Trey Burke has filled in at point guard as a true freshman for Michigan, averaging 14.5 points and 4.8 assists per game during the regular season.

off the first-place Spartans at the
Breslin Center on Sunday, there
never would have been a three-
way split for the championship.
There never would have been a
toast at Buffalo Wild Wings.
I imagine our friend would
have found himself back at the
corner of State and Washington
anyway, but he would have found
a corner stool at the bar. With his
saturnine face and watchful eyes,
he would have been left alone.
But Buford drilled it. Electri-
fied, the man clambered out of
his stupor to extol the Wolver-
ines. He, too, felt like he was - at
long last - a champion.
So he toasted to Michigan. You

should too. Lift the glass, I'll lead
the way.
Here's toyou, Trey Burke.
Without Burke patrolling the
point, Michigan would have been
nowhere near contention for the
conference championship.
To merely say there was pres-
sure on the guard would be an
injustice. Burke was tasked with
running Michigan coach John
Beilein's complex offense as a
true freshman - and he'd be
filling in for star Darius Morris,
who bolted for the NBA follow-
ing his sophomore season.
Instead of folding, Burke
proved his mettle. Averaging 14.5
points and 4.8 assists, his statis-

tics sit a small step behind last
season's Morris (15.0 points, 6.7
assists). But he's a floor general
that fits for Michigan.
Here's to you, Zack Novak and
Stu Douglass.
This duo won't soon be forgot-
ten. They might have penned the
screenplay for True Grit. (Sorry,
Joel and Ethan Coen.)
Overlooked and under the
radar, Novak and Douglass
found their way to Ann Arbor
and worked to win the hearts of
Michigan fans. Despite being a
program under construction in
a state painted green by power-
house Michigan State, Novak and
Douglass trumpeted the values

of Beilein's curriculum on and off
the court.
The senior captains' final reg-
ular season could be justly billed
as justified.
The pair of Indiana natives
who were passed over by home-
town schools fought tooth and
nail to bring Michigan basketball
back to Crisler Center.
And Michigan basketball,
headlined by its two captains,
finished 15-1 at home.
Here's toyou, John Beilein.
Beilein commands attention.
He's not as boisterous, dynamic
or memorable as many coaches
across the nation, but few can
stand toe-to-toe with him. His

Lacrosse earns program's first victor m BPae

For the Daily
The Michigan men's lacrosse
team made history Sunday morn-
ing in Florida. With a victory over
Mercer, the team earned its first
win in the program's young his-
tory. The Wolverines, in their
premier season of Division-I play,
crushed the Bears, 14-4.
Michigan came off a disap-
pointing loss against Jacksonville
on Friday, when the Dolphins
scored an overtime goal to take
the game, 9-8. With a single day
to recover, the Wolverines got
down to business in preparation
for Mercer. Michigan coach John
Paul did not allow the loss to dis-
tract his team from the task ahead
and was rewarded with the first
win of the season.
"It is a very quick turnaround,"
Paul said. "They have had all
week to prepare for us and we
have had a day."
The game started off in Michi-
gan's favor, as the team scored
four goals in the first period.
Mercer closed the deficit to five
in the third quarter, but that was
as close as the Bears would get.
A four-goal Wolverine run in the
fourth ended any thoughts of a
comeback and gave Michigan a
decisive 10-pointnvictory.
With little time to study its
opponent, the team knew it could
not be tentative against Mercer
and decided to take its new man-
tra - aggressiveness - to heart
and to the field. After its impres-
sive performance in the first
quarter, the team left little doubt
as to who would be the victors in
From Page 1B
so in order to make the most of
that matchup, Sheffer had to play
more on the perimeter. Six of her
eight points came from beyond
the arc.
"I think we just tried to spread
the floor and go at her as much as
we could," Sheffer said of Adams.
"At 6-foot-5, she's a big girl. It's
hard to get in the paint and go
around her, especially at (my)
size, but we just tried to go at her
around the arc."
Senior guards Carmen Reyn-
olds and Courtney Boylan led the
Wolverine offense with 14 and 10
points, respectively, while junior
guard Jenny Ryan stepped up
in her habitual role on defense.
Ryan had a team-high eight
rebounds and five steals while
guarding Prahalis for a signifi-

The Michigan lacrosse team beat Mercer for the program's first-ever in.

the last game of spring break.
"We are a little relieved, to say
the least," Paul said. "We need to
continue to build this program,
and (Sunday) was an important
step on that path."
Junior midfielder Thomas
Paras led all scorers with four
goals and two assists in the vic-
tory over the Bears.
"The four goals ... is something
I take a lot of pride in as a cap-
tain," Paras said. "Everyone on
the team stepped up today. We
played with a lot of passion and
"That's just our style of play."
Paras' performance was a key
part of the Wolverines' success,
and Paul commended his player,
whose role on the team changed
significantly from last year.
"(Thomas) is an incredibly tal-
ented athlete and very talented
cant portion of the second half.
Boylan knew the defense
would need to have a strong
showing to shut down Ohio
State's league-leading offense,
but she thought the game was
decided by multiple missed
chances to close the gap down
the stretch.
"I felt we had some good
opportunities around (the four-
minute mark to make shots),"
Boylan said. "I believe we were
down like six (or) seven points.
And I had a couple of opportuni-
ties to make some free throws.
Some of us had some good, open
shots, but just didn't seem to
knock them down at the time."
Michigan didn't improve on
shooting between halves, going
19-of-55 for the game. Shef-
fer and Boylan, the Wolverines'
leading scorers, went a com-
bined 1-for-6 in the first half,
and Boylan uncharacteristically

lacrosse player," Paul said. "We
moved him this year from attack
to midfield. It's been a little bit of
a change for him. He is starting to
understand what his role is in the
Fifth-year senior attackman
Trevor Yealy and sophomore mid-
fielder Doug Bryant each added
three goals. Junior midfielder
Willie Steenland had one goal
and three assists in the victory, as
well. Their performances helped
the Wolverines to their highest
scoring game of the season.
The players attribute their
high-scoring featto their focus on
being aggressive.
"(Michigan assistant) Coach
(Keith) Euker sat the attack down
and told us that we were not being
aggressive enough in all facets
of the game," Yealy said. "(The
increase in offense was) a com-
missed two free throws, which
would've cut the lead to seven.
Michigan didn't shoot partic-
ularly well from beyond the arc,
The squad shot an abysmal
1-for-11 in the first half and was
forced to take more attempts in
the second half just to try to cut
the deficit.
"I think maybe the shot selec-
tion we took in the first half
potentially could have some-
thing to do with (the loss)," said
Michigan coach Kevin Borseth.
"But you have to feel it. We tried
to get down inside that lane, but
they kept challenging us from
the arc.
"We had some good looks
down low.... We tried a few back-
door cuts, when we went after
it with one hand instead of two
hands, got deflected, went out
of bounds. We tried to get it in
there. and the ball iust wasn't

bination of being more aggres-
sive, finding open looks, and guys
being able to see ... those open
Another important aspect of
the victory over the Bears was the
play of fifth-year senior faceoff
man Brian Greiner. Greiner was
hailed by his coaches for having
an exceptional performance in
the faceoff position against Mer-
cer. Faceoffs have been a weak-
ness of the Wolverines and were
a main cause of their downfall
against Jacksonville on Friday.
On Sunday, though, Greiner
helped Michigan win 15 of 20
"I knew I needed to do my part
to help out and get possessions for
us," Greiner said. "Personally, it's
my only job, so it's a lot of work,
and I take it very seriously. It's a
team effort. It's my wingers help-
ing me outgetting ground balls."
In the win, Michigan also
allowed its fewest goals all sea-
son. Freshman goalie Emil Weiss,
who returned after a hand injury,
was a major contributor for the
Wolverines over the weekend.
Weiss played in exhibition
matches earlier this year, but
played his first Division-I college
game against Jacksonville. In his
debut performance, Weiss had
fifteen saves against the Dolphins
and added another four against
Mercer. With a new mindset on
offense and a replenished defense,
Michigan made a splash in Flor-
ida over spring break. The team
is looking forward to its game on
Wednesday against Loyola in Ann
Arbor, its first home game of the
going our way in the first half.
And as a result, you line up with
3-point shots that don't go in. If
they go in, it's a different conver-
Now that the Wolverines' Big
Ten Tournament run is over,
they have just over a week until
Selection Monday, when they
find out if they've earned their
first tournament bid since 2001.
Borseth thinks the team has
earned it despite going one-and-
done in the conference tourna-
"We put 20 wins on theboard,"
Borseth said. "We finished .500
in our conference. Our RPI is
good. We had a great strength of
"We're a very strong team. We
feel we've laid our case, but at
this point it's unfortunately not
in our hands, it's in their hands.
So we have to have a kind of wait-
and-see scenario right now."

T-shirt said it all. But in the semi-
finals, Grajales fell to Minnesota's
Dylan Ness, who he defeated in a
5-3 decision earlier this season.
Then on Sunday, in his first
consolation match, Grajales faced
Ohio State's Cam Tessari en route
to his third-place finish. Though
Grajales shut out the Buckeye in
last month's duel, it was not as
easy this time around. At the end
of the third period, the score was
tied 2-2 and went into sudden vic-
tory. Finally, in the fourth round
of tiebreakers, Michigan coach
Joe McFarland and assistant
coach Sean Bormet anxiously rose
from their chairs while Grajales
made a one-point escape for the
win. His 15-minute marathon was
the longest tussle in Michigan his-
tory since the most recent over-
time system was implemented.
When the referee raised Gra-
jales' arm to signify his victory,
he flexed in front of a rowdy Buck-
eye crowd. A wrestler of similar
strength but mellower spirits fol-
lowed. Russell calmly paced back
and forth before his champion-
ship match began. But he always
remains composed, almost stoic.
Then, Russell took the mat
and let out his aggression. Iowa's
Montell Marion was the unlucky
candidate and stepping-stone to
Russell inking his name in the
history books. The senior imme-
diately took hold of Marion's leg
and tried to keep him in bounds,
pulling him toward the center. He
went for a takedown, scoring in
the first 30 seconds of action.
In the 195th bout of the week-
end, Russell clinched his win with
From Page 1B
"He's progressing every sin-
gle day," said senior guard Stu
Douglass. "He had that turnover
toward the end of the game, then
he came back and hit that big
shot. It didn't faze him. ... He's
not letting his offense dictate the
rest of his game, which is good."
That 3-pointer began a 23-5
run for the Wolverines, who
clamped down on defense.
With Hardaway Jr. and Burke
out of the game, Michigan
went to a trapping 2-3 zone and
promptly forced two turnovers,
each punctuated by abasket from
Michigan also got a key con-
tribution from sophomore for-
ward Evan Smotrycz, who led all
scorers with 12 points in the first
half and had a couple key baskets

a single-leg akedown in the last
second of the match. He reacted
with humility and joined his par-
ents in the stands before being
called to the podium. Interest-
ingly, Ed and Maria Russell did
not wear maize and blue. Instead,
they wore white T-shirts with
lightning bolts on the backs to
replicate their son's tattoo on his
Some may think that it repre-
sents Russell's quick attacks or
his storm-force approach, but it's
really just a sign of his past. In the
1970s, the wrestlers at Blair Acad-
emy, Russell's high school in New
Jersey, tattooed the symbol on
their legs despite their Buccaneer
mascot. And it's tradition itself
that Russell creates. He became
the first grappler since Iowa's
Mark Ironside to record four Big
Ten titles. He was later named
this year's co-Most Outstanding
Wrestler of the Championships,
alongside Penn State's Frank
Assistant coach Donny Prit-
zlaff described Russell as the
hardest working and most consis-
tent Wolverine. But he wasn't as
satisfied with the seventh-place
team finish. No. 14 senior Zac
Stevens proved Pritzlaff right
and wrong. He pinned his two
unranked opponents, but fell to
Illinois' No. 4 B.J. Futrell twice
in the tournament. But en route to
his fourth-place finish, the high-
est of his career, Stevens won a
3-2 upset over Purdue's eighth-
ranked Cashd Quiroga.
"Gotta hold your head up high,"
Stevens said. "I wrestled as hard
as I could."
Though Michigan sought more
than it achieved, it ended as a
weekend of upsets, rivalry and
Russell - a crowned champion.
after the break. Smotrycz's driv-
ing layup with 14:42 left in the
game put the Wolverines back
up by 16 points, and his 3-pointer
two minutes later gave his team
its largest lead of the day at 54-35.
That's when the Nittany
Lions made their run. Though
star guard Tim Frazier shot just
4-for-16 on the afternoon, Mar-
shall was there for key baskets.
But Michigan had enough poise
to stay on top.
Upon returning to Ann Arbor,
the Wolverines found out their
reward for doing so.
"You do go into it (knowingthe
stakes), and we talked a lot about
it - this is what champions do on
this day," Beilein said. "They play
with poise, they play with confi-
dence, they do the little things.
"We certainly weren't perfect
today, but we did a lot of things
we needed to do to win this


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