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March 20, 2014 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-20

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8A - Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

'M' must beat
eis enn Sae

With NCAA valleys now comes down to one
game. If Michigan can pull out a
Tournament on the victory against the pesky Nittany
lieLions, it would almost certainly
line,'Wolverines find its way into the national
face must-win tournament come Selection Sun-
day on March 23.
Like Bennett said, it won't be
By JEREMY SUMMITT easy. In four games against Penn
Daily SportsEditor State this sea-
son, the Wol- h
The team that has given the verines have Michigan
Michigan hockey team fits all surrendered 14 Penn State
season now stands as its obstacle goals, an aver- Matchup:
toward earning an NCAA Tour- age of 3.5 per PSU 7-25-2;
nament berth. game. Defen- Mich. 18-12-4
The Wolverines (10-8-2 Big sive woes have When: Thurs-
Ten, 18-12-4 overall) will begin plagued Michi- day 3 P.M.
their quest for a Big Ten Tourna- gan for a good Where: Xcel
ment championship and a chance portion of the Energy Center
to solidify their NCAA Tourna- season, but TV/Radio:
ment aspirations with a first- heading into BTN
round matchup against Penn the conference
State on Thursday. Two of the tournament,
Nittany Lions' three conference Berenson said
wins came against Michigan, as this is the best he's felt about the
the teams split the regular-sea- defensive corps all year.
son series. "We're in the playoffs now; we
For weeks, the Wolverines have to tighten up defensively,"
have been in the same desperate Berenson said. "They can talk all
position, clawing and fighting they want about (how) Michigan
each game for a chance to keep led the Big Ten in goals for, but
their season alive. They can attri- we have to make sure we lead the
bute as much to the two losses playoffs in goals against or we
they suffered to the conference's aren't going to be playing long."
bottom feeder. The Nittany Lions are noto-
"They're kind of in the back rious for high pressure on the
of my mind, but it's a reminder forecheck and throwing pucks
that this isn't going to be an toward the net at any opportu-
easy game," said senior defense- nity, regardless of where the for-
man Mac Bennett. "We know wards are. Pucks come in from
that, and everyone in (the locker every direction: from the point,
room) knows that. We're goingto the corner and the sideboards. It
be ready to play come Thursday." will be critical for the Wolverines
But those same sentiments to tighten their defensive assign-
have been echoed in days lead- ments and sacrifice bodies for
ing up to previous games against timely blocks.
Penn State (3-16-1, 7-25-2). The "The blueprint for their team
results were a 4-0 embarrass- all year has been blue-collar,
ment in Happy Valley and a late hard-working, hard-nosed hock-
collapse at home that ended in a ey, and getting pucks to the net,"
5-4 overtime defeat. Berenson said. "They might not
A season full of peaks and brag about their skill, but they

can brag about the fact that they
outshot most of their opponents."
In Michigan's two victories
against Penn State, it allowed
just 56 shots. In the two losses,
the Nittany Lions fired 84.
"It starts with getting pucks
deep in their zone, and forecheck-
ing the other team and play-
ing more offensive zone time,"
Berenson said.
In the Wolverines' 6-2 win
over No. 1 Minnesota last Satur-
day, much of their success lay in
their effective forecheck. Mul-
tiple times, sophomore forward
Andrew Copp and freshman
forward Tyler Motte connected
for grade-A scoring chances. For
extended minutes, Michigan was
able to hold the puck deep to sty-
mie a group of extremely danger-
ous Golden Gophers forwards.
"I think that definitely helped
the team's confidence," Bennett
said. "That was a huge win for us,
and we needed to win that game.
We did it with authority, too."
At other times that evening,
when Minnesota garnered the
chances it inevitably would,
freshman goaltender Zach Nagel-
voort looked brilliant. He made
saves Berenson has been looking
for his goaltenderto make all year,
and he stood up as a netminder
who could change the outcome of
a game by himself.
The Wolverines will need
sound defense, opportunistic
forechecking and rock-solid goal-
tending to make a run at the Big
Ten Tournament title. But for
Thursday, they'll need to execute
a game plan and stay focused
against a team that has nothing
to lose.
Michigan doesn't have much
wiggle room either. Another
defeat at the hands of Penn State
could be enough to nail the door
shut on a roller coaster of a sea-
son.

PATRICK BARRON/Daily
Michigan coach John Bellein wants to make sure Michigan doesn't overlook Wofford in the first round of the tournament.
Up first: Woffiord

Michigan hopes to
make another run
deep in the NCAA
Tournament
By NEAL ROTHSCHILD
Daily Sports Editor
The last three times the
Michigan men's basketball
team played in a tournament, it
reached the championship game
- never mind the result in those
games.
A fourth straight would be
quite an accomplishment, and
that's what the Wolverines are
setting out to do when they
begin the NCAA Tournament
on Thursday against Wofford
as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest
region.
It's the highest seed Michi-
gan has attained in the John
Beilein era, and while the
15-seed upset is certainly not
unprecedented, the Wolverines
will have more margin for error
than in opening games in prior
years.
That, however, certainly
won't be an invitation for the
team to look ahead to its Satur-
day game.
"I thought this team did a
great job of not thinking ahead
all year and taking it game by
game and preparing the best we
can for Wofford," sophomore
forward Glenn Robinson III told
reporters Wednesday.
For a team that plays its best
when it has a source of motiva-
tion - a chip on its shoulder
- the matchup against the Ter-
riers seems to fall short of pro-
viding that.
Beilein is doing what he can
to talk up Wofford and instill

a sense of urgency. The team
seemed to lack that punch in
the quarterfinal of the Big Ten
Tournament when Illinois
nearly sprung an upset with the
Wolverines looking lethargic for
stretches of play.
"It might not be a team that
jumps off the paper," said fifth-
year senior center Jordan Mor-
gan. "But somebody that you
have to respect and take very
seriously."
Added Beilein: "It probably
bothers me a little bit (that many
Michigan players hadn't heard
of Wofford) because I know how
good those teams are, and as I
watch NIT scores yesterday ... as
a guy who came from that terri-
tory, I remind them all the time
how everyone this time of the
year is really good. You got to
come ready to play."
While the impetus is there
to shrug off the Wofford
matchup, working in the Wol-
verines' favor is that they lost
their previous game, the Big
Ten Tournament Final against
Michigan State. Michigan has
been impressive over the last
few years at coming back from
losses. It hasn't lost consecutive
games this year and has won
games following a loss by an
average of 24 points.
Maybe it won't come against
Wofford, but the close games
may arrive quickly for Michigan,
though that may not be a bad
thing. The Wolverines are 9-2
in games decided by fewer than
five points. Four of those wins
have come in the last month,
and neither of the losses were in
2014.
"We've really played well in
those last few minutes to seal
those games up," said sopho-
more guard Nik Stauskas. "So
I just think those games have

done a good job of preparing
us for this tournament because
you're not going to blow teams
out and you're going to have a lot
of games where it comes down
to the last few minutes. I think
we're ready for that."
After facing the same teams
for the last 11 weeks, Michigan
can finally shed its worn-thin
Big Ten scouting reports.
"I think every university in
the country gets excited about
playing somebody else they
haven't seen twice, or three
times during the year," Beilein
said Sunday.
But where Beilein would nor-
mally have up to a week to pre-
pare for a team that he knows
well in his
own confer-
ence, the Michigan vs.
preparation Wofford
timetable
shrinks in a Matchup:
hurry. Wofford
The Wol- 2 2; Mich.
verines had
three days to When:
get ready for Thursday
ge 710 ,P.:t!...
the Terriers
and will then Where: BMO
have only one Harris Bradley
day to plan for Center
the Saturday TV/Radio:
game, should CBS
they get by
Wofford.
Less time for scouting also
means less rest. If Michigan
makes it to Saturday, it will be
playing its fifth game in nine
days - something teams rarely,
if ever, have to do.
The heightened adrenaline of
March Madness works to neu-
tralize that fatigue.
"It's a different focus now,"
Morgan said. "It's a different
level of intensity when it comes

to the game."

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