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December 08, 2014 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-12-08

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SportsMonday

4B - December 8,2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

BesTHE MICHIGAN
Blue line sparks sk DAILY TOP 10 POLL

Scoring from
defense ignites 'M'
on homestand
By JEREMY SUMMITT
Daily Sports Editor
A good defense typically leads
to a good offense, but what if
your defense is your offense?
That's been the case for the
Michigan hockey team as of late.
The Wolverines' recent string
of success can be accredited to a
defensive unit with a knack for
producing goals.
Saturday's 8-3 thrashing of
Ohio State is the latest result
of Michigan's seven-game
homestand that's included six
wins and 38 goals scored.
In that stretch, Wolverine
defensemen have combined for
26 points (five goals, 21 assists).
The production from the blue
line comes as awelcome sight for
Michigan coach Red Berenson
after his defensemen scored
just eight goals in 35 games last
season.
"We're getting better
' offensively," Berenson said.
"And we're getting better in the
offensive zone andgettingbetter
in defensive zone, not spending
as much time in our zone."
The offensive output during
this homestand has been
exponentially better than
the anemic showing in the
first seven games of the year.
Before returning to Yost, the
Wolverines were 2-5, scoring an
average of three goals per game.
But in the last seven games
at home, Michigan compiled a
6-1 record, a result of scoring
an average of 5.42 goals per
game. The difference is night-
and-day, and after making an
emphatic statement during their
most recent stretch at home,
the Wolverines might have just
salvaged their season.
"I think we had our backs

The Daily had a reporter in the room as the College
Football Playoff Committee decided its rankings this
week. We are happy to relay the justification for each
team's ranking, as reasoned by the committee.

1. ALABAMA:
"Nick Saban
is a godly,
statuesque
and
beautifully sexu
whose face shou
American televi
for millennia to

2.OREGON:
"Phil Knight
paid us $436
million to not
announce he
al creature paid us to put Oregon in the
ild grace playoff."

sion screens
come."

i

SAM MOUSIGIAN/Daily
Zach Wrenski and the Michigan defense scored 26 points in the team's seven-game homestand that ended Friday.

against the wall after we got lineup - Brennan Serville -
back home from Michigan Tech, playing alongside two freshmen
and I think we responded really and three sophomores. The
nicely," said junior forward learning curve that often comes
Andrew Copp. "Other than along with college hockey hasn't
those three minutes in the Penn slowed thisgroup down as much
State game, I think we have been as critics had initially believed.
pretty solid. Much of
We like where that has to do
we're at and withServille;
where we are "w e like where for better and
headed, and for worse. At
we're going we're at and the beginning
in the right of the season,
direction." where we are Berenson said
In the past h eServille "has
three games, neaueu. to have his
Berenson best season."
has found a Soon after
consistent that, Serville
grouping with his top six struggled, so Berenson benched
defensemen after shuffling the him.
lines more than a superstitious And with one of two senior
poker player would shuffle his defensemen omitted from
cards. The chemistry between the lineup, the freshmen blue
the defensive pairings continues liners were thrust into action.
to grow at a rapid rate, and the No one took advantage of his
questions about inexperience opportunity like Cutler Martin
that swirled around Michigan's did, though, and the East
defensive unit have become Lansing native continues to
inconsequential. impress in his new role.
There's one senior in the In 10 games, Martin has

recorded one goal and five
assists. His physical presence
is immediate from the first
drop of the puck, and the young
defenseman never seems to
be overwhelmed: Poise and
physicality remain his strong
suits.
Just as the freshmen have had
a :chance? toi prow, thes}elves,
Servillehasworkedhiswayback
to a mainstay on the blue line,
and his senior leadership will be
critical in keeping this defensive
unit rolling. In Saturday's game
alone, he tallied three assists and
maintained a steady presence
in his own zone. Among all
Michigan players, Serville ranks
second in plus-minus rating with
a plus-10 mark.
Serville's improvements
after being out of the lineup for
several games paid dividends for
himself,butitalsogaveBerenson
an opportunity to weigh his
options. Now, with a consistent
trio of defensive pairings that
continue to produce in the
offensive zone, Berenson can
enjoy a few hard-earned weeks
of satisfaction.

3. FLORIDA
STATE: "They
serve some
damn good
crab legs at
the Rose Bowl."
5. BAYLOR:
"Bears. Beets.
Battlestar
Galactica. These
are things we
don't want in our playoff."
7. MISSISSIPPI
STATE:
"Which,
MSU did we
put seventh
last week?" "I don't
remember." "Let's pick the
Confederates."

4.OHIO
STATE: "If
we pick Ohio
State, we don't
have to choose
between TCU and Baylor. So
it's unanimous? Good."
6. TCU: "I'll
never forgive
TCU for luring
Eric Taylor
from Dillon." "That was
TMU." "NEVER!"

8. MICHIGAN
STATE:
"Sparty? No."

S

9. OLE MISS: 10. RICH
"M-I-S-S-I-S-S- RODRIGUEZ:
I-P-P-I is a lot of "Don't
letters. Way too you mean
many letters." Arizona?"
"Yeah, but let's
call them Rich Rodriguez. It
would be fun to watch Ann
Arbor burn."

WOMNl'S YMNASTICS
Michigan tops EMU
in home exhibition

MEN'S BASKETBALL
'M'in trouble withoutfreshmen

*I

By MARINA NAZARIO
Daily Sports Writer
The unranked women's
gymnastics team returned to
Crisler Center for the first home
exhibition meet of the season on
Sunday, giving consistent and
enthusiastic performances in all
four events.
The Wolverines hosted and
defeated Eastern Michigan,
196.150-192.400,inaperformance
that will not count toward the
regular season scoring averages
or dual meet records.
Coming off a Big Ten
championship in 2014, the
Wolverines are now a young
team after losing six of their
seniors last season. Sunday was
a good opportunity not only for
Michigan to preview what it has
been working on in practice,
but also to give the freshmen
an opportunity to perform in
their first competition without
the added pressure of an official
meet.
"It's intimidating being in
Crisler for the first time," said
coach Bev Plocki. "I'mjust happy
that they performed as well as
they did today. This is going to
give them the confidence to do

some of the things they need to
in practice in order to improve
their routines."
As the team is plagued
by injuries - with four girls
sitting out during this meet -
there is no room for error. The
team's outcome is based on the
compilation of each gymnast's
score, with the goal to stay as
close to 200.00 as possible.
Though the injuries within
the team may have been
discouraging, the Wolverines
were all smiles, giving high-
energy performances during
floor, vault, uneven bars and
beam.
"This was about getting the
nerves out and being comfortable
with ourselves to see what we
can do in a competition setting,"
said senior Sachi Sugiyama. "We
don't expect to be perfect right
now, we don't need to be perfect
right now. We want to peak at
the right time, so I think we're in
a really good spot right now."
Top performers from the
competition included Sugiyama
on floor and vault, receiving
a score of 9.850 on both, and
sophomore Nicole Artz on the
uneven bars and floor with scores
of 9.825 and 9.875, respectively.

With the Michigan
men's basket-
ball team's fate
nearly sealed against New
Jersey Institute of Technol-
ogy on Saturday, junior guard
Spike Albrecht found himself
knocked
down. He
stayed on
the floor for
a moment,
face bur-
ied in the
Crisler Cen-
ter court, SIMON
and slapped KAUFMAN
the hard-
wood twice.
He was
mad, and he should've been,
because NJIT's shockingi2-70
upset over No. 17 Michigan
wasn't his fault. He chipped
in seven points and played the
point guard position admirably.
After the game, junior guard
Caris LeVert called the loss
"embarrassing." He was mad,
too, because this outcome
wasn't his fault, either. He
scored a career-high 32 points,
and when the Wolverines (6-2)
needed him most, he was cold-
blooded. The 6-foot-6 guard
had 15 points in the last six
minutes of the game, knocking

down four free throws and hit-
ting two big 3-pointers down
the stretch to keep the Wolver-
ines close until the very end.
But against an NJIT (3-5)
team that didn't miss late,
Michigan needed help from
more than a few of the older
guys.
The two juniors did every-
thing they could to prevent
the only independent Division
I team from making national
headlines. But instead, the
little-known school from New
Jersey became just the third
team to knock off Michigan at
home in the past two seasons.
Albrecht and LeVert weren't
the problem. Neither was
sophomore guard Derrick Wal-
ton r., who went5+of-9 from
the field and finished with 16
points. Even Zak Irvin wasn't
the problem, despite the sopho-
more forward contributing just
five points and going 1-of-8
from 3-point range.
"We gotta have guys ready
to make plays at any moment,"
Irvin said. "There's going to be
days when people are going to
have off days, and we have to
have that next-man-up mental-
ity."
The problem is;that mental-
ity hasn't translated into execu-

tion.
Saturday, freshman forward
Kameron Chatman could've
been the next man up. With
Irvin struggling to get shots to
fall, the former four-star recruit
could have stepped up. Instead,
he went 0-for-6 from the field
and struggled defensively.
Save for freshman forward
Ricky Doyle, who scored two
points, and freshman guard
AubreyDawkins, who came in
for less than a minute, the rest.
of Michigan's freshmen played
no role in the game - Michigan
coach John Beilein doesn't trust
them enough to put them in.
"We just got to keep work-
ing to develop the bench,"
Beilein said. "We're working
on it in practice, but not using
it enough in the game because
they're still earning some trust.
But this is really important that
(Dawkins and freshman guard
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rah-
kman) can come off the bench
and give us a little bit more."
So far, they and the other
freshmen haven't. A highly
touted recruiting class of six
has contributed less than a
quarter of Michigan's minutes
and less than 20 percent of its
scoring.
The Wolverines' fresh-

men are talented, but until
they develop to a point where
Beilein trusts them enough to
play them, Michigan will be far
too reliant on a handful of vet-
eran players to carry the load.
LeVert, Albrecht, Walton and
Irvin - Michigan's most expe-
rienced four - have proven
they're capable of doing the
heavy lifting. But when one of
them doesn't show up, and the
Wolverines don't get contribu-
tions from elsewhere, Michigan
is in trouble.
If it can't survive that
scenario against NJIT, the
prospect of having to rely on
contributions from freshmen
against Arizona on Saturday
and Big Ten opponents later in
the season is reason for con-
cern.
If LeVert doesn't take over
the game in the final minutes,
Michigan doesn't just get upset,
it loses in lopsided fashion to
the Highlanders.
"We have other guys that
are capable of scoring as well,"
LeVert said.
If that's the case, they
haven't shown it enough yet.
Kaufman can be reached
at sjkauf@umich.edu or
on Twitter @sjkauf.

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