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Published: Monday, 1/18/2010

Michigan knocks off UConn

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - This entry goes right to the top of the resume.

Should the University of Michigan find itself stuck on the fringe of the NCAA tournament weeks from now, yesterday's win over Connecticut should provide the Wolverines with some leverage over other teams on the bubble.

In a game pitting two teams whose predominant color is blue, UM was the one to strap on a blue collar. Feisty and ornery, the Wolverines used stellar team defense to combat the Huskies' length advantage, prevailing 68-63 at Crisler Arena.

The Wolverines (10-7) have knocked off the 15th ranked team twice at home this month, also doing it Jan. 3 against Ohio State. Unlike the win over the Buckeyes, who were without their best player Evan Turner, an asterisk is not attached to yesterday's decision.

"They're not the No. 1 team in the country, or a top 10 team, but UConn is a great program," UM's DeShawn Sims said.

Missed free throws down the stretch were the Huskies' downfall. UConn has dropped three straight to drop to 11-6. Trailing by five with 44 seconds remaining, Jerome Dyson missed both free throws during a trip to the foul line that probably sealed the win for Michigan.

"I don't even think we played as well as we're capable of playing, but we worked so hard the entire game," UM coach John Beilein said.

Unlike many times this year, the Wolverines received production from more players than just Sims and Manny Harris. Beilein singled out Zack Novak and Anthony Wright for their strong performances.

Novak scored 10 points, including a 3-pointer to break a tie with 1:30 to go and a pair of free throws with 27 seconds remaining to up the lead to five. Wright made the most of his 12 minutes off the bench, scoring nine points, all on 3-pointers.

"I've been hitting them in practice," Wright said. "In games, I'm looking to shoot, but I'm looking for team shots. Today I got a lot of team-shot opportunities."

As for Harris and Sims, they were both solid as Harris totaled 18 points and eight boards while Sims scored eight points and yanked 11 rebounds despite working against taller players. Stu Douglass added 13 points and four assists.

"Our bench has not been a strength all year long," Beilein said, before giving compliments to Wright and Zack Gibson (four points, four rebounds).

This win may signal the beginning of change in bench productivity, as well as change in defensive awareness. Although it started three players taller than anyone in a maize and blue uniform, UConn was unable to control the paint as its front court members were repeatedly facing two and sometimes three defenders upon receiving the ball. The Huskies starting forwards - Stanley Robinson and Alex Oriakhi, both 6-foot-9 - combined for just 15 points on 7 of 16 shooting and were unable to prevent the Wolverines from corralling 15 offensive rebounds.

Kemba Walker paced a balanced UConn scoring effort with 15 points. Gavin Edwards, Jerome Dyson, and Robinson followed with 14, 13, and 11, respectively.

"Our four leading scorers were our four leading scorers again," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "And no one else gave us anything."

RODRIGUEZ SPEAKS: UM football coach Rich Rodriguez met with reporters during halftime of yesterday's game and revealed that six 2010 recruits are enrolled in classes for this semester, which began two weeks ago. They are: receivers Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, and Jerald Robinson, running backs Stephen Hopkins and Austin White, and offensive lineman Christian Pace. Expected to begin classes tomorrow is Detroit's Devin Gardner, who is among the nation's top incoming quarterbacks. Rodriguez said he expects to sign 26 players, which is two more than the Wolverines currently have received commitments from. Rodriguez said defensive tackle Mike Martin will miss spring ball after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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