The Wolverine

May 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 38 of 83

S Madness. For every exhilarating Cin- derella celebration, there's a team trudging away feeling like it just took a glass slipper heel to the eyeball. Just ask Missouri. Or Duke. Just ask Michigan, which entered picturing 40 desperate, scrambling moments, followed by an all-too- early trip back home. That's the harsh, bitter side of the ixty-eight teams throw them- selves into March dreaming about One Shining Moment. Even the least of them isn't BY JOHN BORTON 63-60. That delivered a shot of hope that the Michigan's feelgood story of the winter wasn't coming to a too quick conclusion. But just like that, the tourney jour- the NCAA Tournament as an over- achieving No. 4 seed with a 24-9 re- cord and a share of a Big Ten cham- pionship for the first time since 1986. The Wolverines were bound for the Sweet 16 at least, most agreed, and then … ney led off a cliff. The Wolverines never scored again. Burke missed a trio of three-point attempts in those closing moments, senior Zack Novak another. Sophomore Evan Smotrycz saw the basketball slip away from him with seven seconds to play, forestall- ing the chance for a buzzer-beating attempt to send the game to overtime. Just like that, the Wolverines were knowing the sort of opportunity that swirled, just out of reach, in a 40-minute windstorm inside Bridge- stone Arena. "I don't even know how to de- scribe it," Novak said. "We left some opportunities out there tonight. That makes it sting a little bit more. We re- ally thought we had a team to make a run this year, and I still think … "Any other night, it could happen. done. Novak and fellow senior Stu Douglass wouldn't get another shot. As gratified as everyone surround- But that's why March is crazy. Duke lost to Lehigh. That's why people enjoy this." The Wolverines and their fans UNEXPECTED ENDING ing Michigan basketball felt about the regular season — complete with a logic-defying scramble to the top of the Big Ten standings — the NCAA An Early NCAA Exit Leaves U-M Wanting More taking out a deer crossing the free- way. In an instant, a very messy end- ing unfolded. That's what happened in Nash- Then March reality hit, like a semi ville's Bridgestone Arena on March 16, when Ohio University's Bobcats took down the Wolverines in a sec- ond-round NCAA contest. The Bob- cats rode a game-high 21 points by slippery point guard D.J. Cooper to a 65-60 stunner of a win, building a 13-point first-half lead and hanging on through numerous U-M come- back attempts. The Wolverines couldn't seem to exit proved unbelievably tough to take. The Wolverines felt like guests at a White House dinner who get shown the door after appetizers. "We obviously have a very disap- pointed locker room right now, but Ohio University, as you can see, is a very good team and they played a great game," U-M head coach John Beilein said. "They forced us into some turnovers that really got us down, and we had to make some shots that we normally do make. "It was a tough loss for our guys, get out of their own way at times, missing more than half a dozen la- yups, shooting 30.4 percent (7 of 23 from three-point range) and allow- ing the Bobcats to dribble-drive them right out of the tournament. Ohio took just 43 shots, but connected on 22 (51.2 percent), using its quickness to outflank a Michigan team that looked out of sync all night long. Freshman Trey Burke connected on a three-pointer with 4:12 remaining, pulling the Wolverines within three, and a final record of 24-10 this season. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Head coach John Beilein led the Wolverines to a share of the Big Ten regular-season crown, a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tourney with a wave of already committed talent pouring into Ann Arbor over the next two years. Novak admitted he'll take plenty of pride in watching what's yet to come for the Wolver- ines. "At the end of the day, you look at They're also excited for the future, and it's a difficult way to end the season, but we did not lose to a team that wasn't worthy of this win today. They're a good team." So was Michigan, and thus the locker room tears over a game that didn't have to slip away. The Wol- verines won as many Big Ten games as Ohio State, which wound up in the Final Four, and Michigan State, which advanced to the Sweet 16. They won more conference battles what this team accomplished from where we started," Novak assessed. "A year ago, Darius [Morris] left, and everyone said we were screwed. We proved a lot of people wrong, and we won the best conference in the country … "We've set a standard. We've built a foundation. I think that was evident this year. We can bring in a freshman point guard, and he ends up as an All-American. As talented as Trey [Burke] is, you bring him into a bad situation, those things just don't hap- pen. than two other teams, Indiana and Wisconsin, which fought their way to the Sweet 16. That wasn't any com- fort at all in the days that followed Michigan's ouster. Nor did the Wolverines draw any succor from Ohio's own run to the Sweet 16. That just made it worse, up to them to keep it going,and carry on what we started." The Wolverines plan on doing pre- "The foundation is set in place. It's cisely that. In Novak and Douglass, U-M loses two of its best three-point shooters, two of its better ball han- dlers and certainly its two most Big Ten-toughened, experienced per- formers. It also says goodbye to a pair of MAY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 39 didn't enjoy this. But they all en- joyed the season overall, the Big Ten championship and the resurgence of Michigan basketball, including NCAA appearances in three of the four years Novak and Douglass wore the uniform.

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