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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Friday, March 15, 2013 - 9

S port Friday, March 15, 2013 - 9

Freshman forward Mitch McGary (No. 4) had a double-double in the first half alone, to help Michigan to an 83-66 win.
McGary, Horford
salvage slow start

ICE HOCKEY
A final push for the Joe
By GREG GARNO
Daily Sports Writer
Imagine a place where stu-
dents stand outside in the bone-
chilling, snowy weather for as
long as five hours - just for a
ticket to a regular-season hockey
game, where the spectators are
loud early and often.
Then imagine this same place
when the home team skates for
the last time in front of their
devoted fans - who have watched
a 13-2-3 home season - in playoff
hockey, no less.
Less than two hours away on
the western side of the state sits
Lawson Arena, home to West-
ern Michigan.
The Michigan
hockey team Michigan ASERMAN/Daiy
paid the Bron- at WMU Senior forward Kevin Lynch said his line must play better than last week to win.
cos a visit in
January, but Matchup: and hit harder. The defense, led Michigan's power-play unit -
this time they Michigan15-18-3 by the pair comprising junior ranked 23rd in the nation.
meet in the WMU 19-9-8 Mac Bennett and freshman Jacob The Wolverines scored four
quarterfinals When: Friday Trouba, is also leading the offen- goals with an extra man and
of the CCHA 6:35 P.M. sive charge by bringing the puck added a shorthanded goal against
Tournament Saturday 7:05 up the ice before dishing to a Northern Michiganlastweekend,
for a chance to fecussay) streakingforward. butthe Broncoskill off 86 percent
advance to Joe 7:05 P.M. "Well, you've got to start with of opportunities.
Louis Arena Where: Law- your goalie, but then it's the "The most important thing
to compete son Arena whole team rallying around him you have to look at when you play
for the Mason and giving him a chance," said Michigan is that you don't take
Cup in the TV: Michigan coach Red Bferenson. penalties - that's the best form
CCHA's last FSDetroit "We're not playing from behind of penalty kill"Murysi.I

By DANIEL WASSERMAN
Daily Sports Editor
CHICAGO - The Michigan
men's basketball team's interior
offense picked up right where it
left off from last Sunday's loss to
Indiana.
For the Wolverines, that spelled
trouble. Penn State, off to a 14-3
start in Thursday's opening round
of the Big Ten Tournament, out-
rebounded Michigan, 11-2, early
on. Meanwhile, redshirt junior
forward Jordan Morgan struggled
out of the gate and never found his
rhythm.
In his first three touches, Mor-
gan had a layup blocked, missed
another from point-blank range
and then, on a fast break, was
stripped.
Fortunately for the Wolverines,
it had a contingency plan in the
form of freshman forward Mitch
McGary. McGary, who registered
just two points and two rebounds
in eight foul-plagued minutes
against Indiana, almost single-
handedly saved Michigan in the
first half.
The Wolverines outscored the
Nittany Lions 32-19 after Penn
State's initial run, taking a 35-33
into halftime, with McGary lead-
ing the charge. The freshman
entered the game with only one
career double-double but already
had 10 points and 10 rebounds in
just 13 minutes by halftime.
McGary said it was his best half
in a Michiganuniform.
"I just felt like I was playing the
way should," McGary said.

Sophomore point guard Trey
Burke, who finished with yet
another stellar performance,
acknowledged that when McGary
entered the game, his presence
wasn't just felt inside the paint,
but by his whole team- both emo-
tionally and schematically.
"That's Mitch McGary; that's
just how he is," Burke said. "He
came off the bench and gave us a
spark and once he comes off the
bench, it gets the crowds into it ...
and that gives us energy.
"When ... our bigs get in there,
get some second-chance points,
get fouled, get to the line, I think
that opens it up for our perimeter
players"
And when McGary's presence
quieted in the second half - he
added only one rebound and was
held off the scoreboard after the
break - redshirt sophomore for-
ward Jon Horford stepped up.
Horford was scoreless in the
first half, but came through with
11 points in the second stanza. .
Even though Morgan finished
with just four points and two
rebounds, Michigan still out-
rebounded Penn State, 36-32,
pulled down 21 offensive boards
and scored 28 second-chance
points.
"That's what our bigs (have) got
to do," McGary said. "When we
show up, it's tough to beat us."
The Wolverines, and espe-
cially their frontcount, have been
criticized at times throughout
the season for being physically
soft and failing to show up in key
games. Earlier this week, against

the Hoosiers, Michigan was out-
rebounded 47-26 - an embarrass-
ing margin.
McGary was quick to admit
that the criticism doesn't fall on
deaf ears, and that's something
he's okay with.
"I like when people say it,"
McGary said. "I turn the degrad-
ing comments into motivation....
People were saying we were soft,
so we went and grabbed some
rebounds, got a whole bunch of
put backs and we won the game."
Michigan coach John Beilein is
generally tight-lipped, especially
when it comes to roster changes,
but the coach couldn't deny that
he'll at least entertain the possi-
bility of moving McGary into the
starting lineup in place of Morgan.
McGary played poorly in his
only start this season - a four-
point, four-turnover effort at
Michigan State on Feb. 12 while
Morgan was injured - but the
combination of Morgan's strug-
gles and Michigan's propensity for
slow starts might be an indication
there will be a different starting
five when the Wolverines take the
floor FridayagainstWisconsin.
"We talk about the roster and
rotation everyday and we'll prob-
ably do that again, but a change
- I'm not going to say we're going
to do it or we're not going to do
it," Beilein said. "Sometimes, if
you do make a change, Jordan
will play more relaxed coming off

v

year.
Coming off its third consecu-
tive series sweep, the Wolverines
begin the next part of their run
to salvage the season on the road.
Michigan was swept by Western
Michigan the last time they met,
but this weekend the Wolverines
return to Lawson with much
more momentum.
Having won six consecutive
games while averaging more than
four goals per game and allowing
exactlytwo, Michiganisarguably
the hottest team in the CCHA.
"Michigan is a good team, we
knew that from the outset of the
season," said Western Michigan
coach Andy Murray in his weekly
press conference. "But we think
we match up well with them.
Led by a goaltender who has
made the saves he should and
then some, freshman Steve
Racine, Michigan's defense has
looked much improved, despite
sitting 54th in the nation in goals
allowed.
Racine has started the last six
games and sparked a defense to
skate to pucks faster, clear pucks
quicker, absorb shots more often

as much, we're getting a chance
to play with a lead and we've got
a little more confidence."
But the defense receives a
break when it travels to face the
51st-ranked offense in the nation,
as Western Michigan scores just
2.31 goals per game.
The Broncos' defense allows
fewer goals than their offense
scores, though, sitting third in
the nation by allowing just 1.92
goals per game. Led by defense-
men Danny DeKeyser, a first-
team All-CCHA member, and his
partner Luke Witkowski, West-
ern Michigan's defense excels
at limiting the shots goaltender
Frank Slubowski sees. Slubowski
allowed three goals while mak-
ing 43 saves during his last outing
against the Wolverines.
"I'm expecting these games to
be close," Berenson said. "Goals
are going to be precious. You
might get the odd good scoring
chance, but the rest of it is going
to be hard, good-working hockey."
The best matchup might come
on special teams this weekend, as
Western Michigan's 10th-ranked
penalty kill attempts to fend off

think there's probably going to
be a mutual respect factor on the
power plays. They know we can
do damage with ours.
"I imagine both coaching staffs
are going to emphasize the fact
that putting the other team on
a power play in an unnecessary
way is only hurting your team."
Michigan's offense will pose
an enigma then, as it has seen an
increase in production from all
lines in its recent hot streak. But
when itneedsto score, it's carried
by a first line that began produc-
ing since it last skated against
Western Michigan.
Last time out, the line of fresh-
man Boo Nieves, sophomore Phil
Di Giuseppe and senior Kevin
Lynch emerged as Michigan's
most dangerous scoring threat
against the Broncos, where the
trio combined for three assists
and agoal.
"We're going to need to play
well for our teamto have a chance
and the same with every other
line," Lynch said. "We haven't
been playing as well as we can
this past couple games so we defi-
nitely need to turn it on."

For Robinson and Kovacs, a final
steak dinner before uncertain future

A wager between
Robinson, Kovacs for
Chop House meal
By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor
Someday soon, for one of the
final times before they move onto
the National Football League or
whatever might lie beyond, former
Michigan captains Denard Robin-
son and Jordan Kovacs will enjoy
a steak dinner together. One will
pay and one won't.
The idea started in workouts
with Michigan strength coach
Aaron Wellman as each prepared
for the NFL Draft and the slate of
drills it entails. As Roy Roundtree
explained, "During the shuttles
last week, Denard was like 'I'm
gonna run faster than you.' And
Jordan was like, 'Nah I'm gonna
run faster than you.' It was back
and forth."
Soon, the two decided to make a
wager, settling on three exercises:
the 20-yard shuttle, the 40-yard
dash and the three-cone drill.
Loser buys a dinner at The Chop
House in downtown Ann Arbor.
It was one final piece of moti-
vation for two ultra-competitive
athletes. And it was a sign of soli-
darity for two players who each
face an uncertain professional
future, even if each has a different
fight to get there.
Kovacs, the underdog again,
must prove that he has the athleti-
cism and ability to play at the next
level. For Robinson, the question
isn't about talent, it's about how he

can use it, and at what position.
The end of Robinson's Michi-
gan career - really starting after
the elbow injury in October that
ended his time at quarterback -
thrust his future into disorder.
To the NFL, Robinson is a tempt-
ing yet unknown quantity, with
potential at many positions but
polish at none.
He has practiced mostly as
a wide receiver, but he has also
worked out as a returner and a
running back and is even prepared
to play cornerback if asked. Every
team, it seemed, had different
needs, and Robinson was forced
to learn an array of different posi-
tions in a matter of weeks.
At first, the inexperience
showed. During the Senior Bowl,
Robinson struggled to field kicks
in practice and dropped the only
one he saw in the game. He man-
aged to catch two passes but for
just 22 yards, and he lacked preci-
sion in his routes.
"Obviously he had a tough
Senior Bowl," Kovacs said, before
adding: "Just seeing how much
work he's put in, it's unbelievable."
Slowly, through multiple work-
outs daily with Wellman and more
individual position work, Rob-
inson started improving. Field-
ing punts came easier, a result of
practicing daily for 30 minutes,
40 minutes, an hour, - "until the
kicker's leg gets tired," Robinson
said.
He refined his routes until they
gained precision. At the beginning
of the winter, despite Robinson's
athleticism, he often seemed awk-
ward, like a prized racehorse sud-
denly expected to navigate a show

jumping course. He thought too
much. He counted his steps when
he ran. He looked for the ball too
soon, or waited until it was too
late.
Now, "he don't count his steps
no more," Roundtree said. "When
he runs his routes, you can see that
he's getting in and out of his cuts,
and he's pretty confident in what
he's running. It shows the prog-
ress that he has made."
By Thursday, Michigan's Pro
Day, when the team's seniors
would work out for professional
scouts, he looked comfortable.
Robinson had already recorded
times in most major drills, at
the NFL Combine in February,
with positive results. His 4.43
40-yard dash was among the fast-
est times at the Combine. He ran
the 20-yard shuttle in 4.22 sec-
onds and the three-cone drill in
7.09 seconds - setting a target for
Kovacs to beat to win the steak.
Thursday, the focus for Robin-
son was onthe position drills. This
time, a confident glide replaced
unsure strides. He didn't drop a
single pass, teammates reported,
and he caught everything with his
hands. Robinson was even perfect
in the return drill.
It was all coming together.
Then came a. curveball. A few
scouts approached Robinson and
told him that in the preparation
for running back and wide receiv-
er and returner and cornerback,
he had perhaps ruled out quarter-
back prematurely.
"They said, 'Continue to throw
the ball,' " Robinson said. "I said,
'No problem."'
Nearby, Kovacs faced scrutiny

on a different part of his game.
Robinson's speed times were
important, but everyone knew he
was fast. Kovacs has the opposite
problem. His instincts and on-field
intelligence are an unquestioned
strength, but does the former
walk-on really have the explosive-
ness needed to cover NFL wide-
outs and tight ends?
For Kovacs, the winter entailed
almost no positional work.
Instead, Wellmen designed a pro-
gram to boost his measurables,
a heavy-weight, low-rep routine
aimed to help Kovacs run 40 yards
as fast as possible "and not die
after," as Kovacs put it.
Kovacs said the preparation
wasn't overwhelming because he
had ostensibly been through the
same process when he walked on
to the Michigan team. But his low
draft stock provided a familiar
motivation.
"I just like to prove people
wrong," Kovacs said.
He had his chance on Thurs-
day. He had three targets, set by
Robinson at the Combine. Beat-
ing them would mean steak, and it
would also go a long way to dem-
onstrating he had the athleticism
requisite for a professional, Three
drills, three goals: a 4.43 in the
40-yard dash, a 4.22 shuttle and a
709 shuttle.
He said he felt faster and lighter
than ever.
"It's funny, you do 100 of these
in the offseason," Kovacs said.
"You know, you do 100, and you
only get one rep."
That was all he needed. In
the 40, Kovacs, unsurprisingly,
couldn't touch Robinson, but his

Former Michigancaptains Denard Robinson(bottom right)and Jordan Kovacs
each face a different fight for the NFL Draft, even if they face them together.

4.58-second time was respectable.
Kovacs was disappointed in his
shuttle time, but his 4.19 seconds
was good enough to beat even
Robinson.
But his three-cone drill was a
statement. His time of 6.62 sec-
onds didn't just beat Robinson, it
destroyed him. Kovacs beat every
safety's time from the Combine,
and his time would've ranked him
third overall.
Afterward, Kovacs shrugged
off his performance's significance,
but he did concede that "Couldn't
have hurt" his draft stock. He
laughed. "I think we can all agree
on that.
"My whole mindset is, I just

need to get my foot in the door,"
Kovacs continued. "I've done it
once, I did it here. Get my foot in
the door, I'll make the most of my
opportunity."
Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.
net reported that the Patriots
invited Kovacs to a private work-
out.
Kovacs' performance was
emphatic, it was perception
changing - it was steak-worthy.
But that dinner will have to
wait a little bit longer. For Kovacs
and Robinson, there's still work
to do before the draft. There's no
room in the diet, even for steak,
even to settle a score between
friends.

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