1/26/2006 - Michigan 72-67 Michigan State - 14-3, 4-2 Big Ten
2. Beat Michigan State.
I present ??? to you:
Horton was the Making Things Happen Guy Who Takes Over and Makes Things Happen Player Of The Game, but we needed him to play like he did just to stay close. It was Chris Hunter's second half reminder that yes, he does exist and yes, he plays basketball that provided the impetus that put Michigan past the Spartans. (It's unfortunate that Hunter is a senior: dubbing him "The Riddler" is terribly clever but hardly worth doing for the few months that remain in his mercurial career.)
Hunter relegated Courtney Sims to the bench for most of the second half by scoring seven of the nine points that pushed Michigan from a 39-45 deficit to a 48-45 lead they would never relinquish, playing excellent defense (two blocks), and--this is important--only travelling once. The whole game! It's no exagerration to say that he was the best big man on the floor, as Sims provided a valuable service by transmitting his acute vaginitis to Paul Davis, turning the much-ballyhooed beast of board into a nonfactor.
Now for the profit. Michigan has a marquee win for the committee and can get another by beating Wisconsin. After that, with three of the four hopeless teams in the Big Ten on the schedule, a win over Wisconsin, well... this falls solidly into the "getting way, way ahead of yourself" category, but it's conceivable that in a couple weeks we could be in some sort of Big Ten title race. And ranked. And thinking more about seeding than pretty please can we get in.
Crazy? You can't discount the Purdue game entirely, but outside of that hiccup Michigan has:
- lost narrowly at Illinois and Indiana
- stomped Northwestern and Minnesota
- beat Michigan State.
That's five out of six performances any team in the country would think acceptable, even ones that have big hopes for March. Our hopes may not be big, but they're extant. All thanks to The Riddler(!) and one game against MSU that did not end with tragedy. Let it be said: this could be the point at which the program turns around. Michigan fans are starved for something positive after football's Season of Infinite Pain. The hockey team is mired in the middle of the CCHA pack. A sold-out Crisler sounded like a real arena; the team that played inside it looked like a real team.
All that's just 'could,' but hey, it says 'did' up there today.
- Brent Petway's collision with Ager didn't appear intentional to me, but I think once it was clear the two were going to bump into each other Petway decided to get his money's worth. Ager's response: hunch over and allow teammates and medical staff to swarm over him. Bill Laimbeer he's not. Ager then went 0-4 for the rest of the game, though he did have 4 FTs.
- Was it unethical/wrong/evidence of the moral decay inherent in the Michigan program? Um... ask someone who doesn't regard that Laimbeer guy as something of a father figure. IMO: he didn't intentionally clock the guy, so play on.
- Was the foul called on Graham Brown for watching Paul Davis fall over the worst in the history of basketball? Discuss.
- ...but, yeah, Spartans got jacked something fierce. I don't think I could have gotten through that game had the calls been reversed without calling a friend and ordering a hit on Bova. My friend would have told me "I'm a computer engineer, I don't kill people," I would have said "but what about the snake, man?" he would have said "that's a foosball move," and that would have been that. But I would have tried.
I do think Michigan earned a certain level of positive FT differential by playing better, less grabby defense than MSU, but the Spartans were in the penalty with about 11 minutes left in both halves and that was due to three or four fouls per stanza that were phantom in nature.
- The other candidate for ???: Ron Coleman, who filled in admirably for Abram. Coleman was 4/5 from the floor, one of those being a three, and somehow managed to stay in front of Shannon Brown for the entire game. I assumed that projected mismatch would see Brown traipsing through the lane unmolested, but Coleman held his ground. Brown was all of 2-5 from within the three-point arc. Shocking.
- MSU: 16 turnovers. Michigan: 15 turnovers. Zounds.
- Another major factor: Michigan pounded the crap out of MSU on the boards. Michigan's offensive rebound percentage: 34. MSU's: 18.