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March 09, 2012 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2012-03-09

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6 - Friday, March 9, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com *

Michigan squares off with Gophers

Daily Sports Writer
One down, two to go.
All season, members of the
Michigan men's basketball team
have talked about champion-
ships. Having already accom-
plished their
first champion-
ship goal - the Michigan vs.
Big Ten regu- Minnesota
lar-season title
- the Wolver- Matchup:
ines will begin Michigan
a new pursuit 23s8;aM19-
in Indianapolis
on Friday when When: Friday
they kick off 6:30 P.M.
play in the con- Where:
ference tour- Bankers Life
nament. Fieldhouse
"We've still TV/Radio:
got goals ahead BTN
of us," said
senior guard
Zack Novak on Monday. "(Win-
ning the conference tourna-
ment) was one of the goals we
had since the beginning of the
season. We're going to go there
with all we got."
Added Michigan coach John
Beilein: "It's really important
that we go in there with that
mindset right now that, 'Alright,
this is another step.' You want
to really have a great season?
Go win a Big Ten Tournament
Championship, because you
don't have to share that with
Having received a first-round
bye, Michigan will square off
with No. 10 seed Minnesota
(6-12 Big Ten, 19-13 overall),
fresh off its upset over North-
western on Thursday.
The Wolverines have had
almost a full week of rest.
Beilein said Monday that the
early portion of the week would
be dedicated mostly to rest and
recovery, while the latter part
would be spent preparing for
both the Wildcats and Gophers.
Beilein said the teamwould
prepare equally for both poten-
tial opponents because both
teams pose different problems.
Northwestern's intricate offense
is tougher to scheme against, but
Michigan hasn't played Min-
nesota since Jan. 1, so the game

'M' heads
down to

Daily Sports Writer


Sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and Michigan had a five-point victory over Minnesota early in the season. The teams face off in Indianapolis today.

plan needs to be reinforced.
"Minnesota seems like it
was a year ago, so that's where
I'm going first in my scouting,"
Beilein said. "(In practice), it's
going to be very difficult to
duplicate Minnesota's athleti-
cism, their shot-blocking ability,
their speed and quickness."
The Wolverines and Min-
nesota met just once this sea-
son. In that contest, the Golden
Gophers jumped out to a quick
6-0 lead, but thanks to a break-
out game from freshman point
guard Trey Burke, who scored a
career-best 27 points, Michigan
won, 61-56.
Minnesota trailed the entire
second half, but managed to cut
its deficit to one point, before

squandering a chance to take the
lead with a shot-clock violation
that occurred with less than 70
seconds remaining.
The Gophers are led by junior
forward Rodney Williams, who
leads the team in both points
(10.9) and rebounds (5.5), but
will likely be without their top
low-post presence. Senior cen-
ter Ralph Sampson III - who
averages 1.3 blocks per game -
is expected to miss the entire
tournament with a knee injury
he suffered earlier this week in
Minnesota's overtime win
over the Wildcats was sparked
by the return of junior point
guard Julian Welch, who missed
the final two regular season

games with a hip injury. Nor-
mally a starter, Welch came
off the bench to score 11 points
Michigan (13-5, 23-8), mean-
while, has been playing perhaps
its best basketball of the season
lately. The 13th-ranked Wolver-
ines have won six of their last
seven games, closing out the
regular season with back-to-
back victories on the road.
The emergence of two pre-
viously slumping sophomores,
guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and
forward Evan Smotrycz, pro-
pelled Michigan to wins at Illi-
nois and Penn State. The duo
combined to score 58 points in
the wins. After shooting below
30 percent from long range

for most of the season, Hard-
away Jr. shot 7-of-10 from deep,
while Smotrycz shot 4-of-5 from
3-point land. With its two most
dangerous scorers producing
at such efficient levels, Novak
believes Michigan can pose a
serious threat to take home the
tournament crown.
"When they're clicking like
that ... it felt like we were getting
good looks," Novak said. "I think
we're very dangerous. Just with
how deep we go, and obviously
when we've got those guys mak-
ing the shots that they were, it
just makes us harder to guard."
Should the Wolverines win on
Friday, they'll advance to play
the Ohio State-Purdue winner
in Saturday's semifinals.

Call: #734-418-4115
Email: dailydisplay@gmail.com

The Michigan softball team is
heading south again.
The 14th-ranked Wolverines
have traveled to Louisville, Kent.
annually since 2008, and this
year they'll face No. 16 Louisville,
Saint Louis and Illinois State
in the Red and Black Classic at
Ulmer Stadium.
Michigan (15-5 overall) is
coming off a loaded spring break
trip to Florida. The Wolverines
played 11 games in .10 days and
faced tough competition in the
two tournaments. Last weekend,
the squad went 4-1and took down
then-No. 14 UCLA and then-No.
19 Auburn thanks to rallying
efforts from senior centerfielder
Bree Evans and senior first base-
man Amanda Chidester and solid
pitching from freshman lefty
Haylie Wagner.
Though Michigan's offense
was proficient, the Wolverine
defense had its faults.
The games during the Florida
campaign were riddled with
errors - 11 in total. Michigan
dropped a 10-7 slugfest to Loui-
siana-Lafayette as a result of two
errors, but did a better job recov-
ering defensively in its game
againstVirginia after committing
three errors.
Senior second baseman Ashley
Lane realizes the defense hasn't
been on the top of its game late-
ly but has confidence that it will
continue to improve before con-
ference play.
"We take
every team we
play with the *
same process."
"We know we're a good defen-
sive team," Lane said. "I think
it's just staying in that one-pitch
focus. We might lose it some-
times, but we're a really good 0
team, (both) defensively and
And though the defense has
been struggling, it's come up big
in games against ranked oppo-
So far this season, the Wolver-
ines are 4-1 against ranked teams,
committing just three errors in
those five games. This weekend,
Michigan takes on tournament
host No.16 Louisville on Saturday
Lane notes that the team isn't
focusing its preparation on one
particular team.
"We take every team we play
with the same process, the same
mindset, because anything could
happen on any given day," she
said. "We could be playing a non-
ranked team and they could have
the best game of their life, so we
have to come out ready every sin-
gle game.
"We'll talk about the pitchers *
and what they'll be throwing and
their strengths and weaknesses
(later in the week), but right now,
we're working on fundamentals.
We're focusing on things we need
to improve on."
Michigan will be tested this

weekend, especially when it takes
on Louisville (15-0) in the second
game of the tournament.
The Cardinals return two of
the best pitchers in the Big East:
senior Tori Collins and sopho-
more Caralisa Connell. The duo is
undefeated and combines for an
ERA under 2.00.
But the Wolverines aren't
without star pitching. Wagner
and fellow freshman Sara Dri-
esenga have posted impressive
numbers for such an early point
in their careers and look to be
improving with every game.
Lane is confident in the two
rookies and is excited about their
early, dominating performances.
"They're doing awesome," she
"I think we'll be just fine (with
them this weekend)."

RELEASE DATE- Friday, March 9, 2012
Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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DOWN 6 6667
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