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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

UM tops Minnesota behind Novak's 18

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Michigan guard Zack Novak slips between Minnesota forwards Paul Carter, left, and Damian Johnson in the first half last night in Ann Arbor. Michigan guard Zack Novak slips between Minnesota forwards Paul Carter, left, and Damian Johnson in the first half last night in Ann Arbor.
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ANN ARBOR - Michigan coach John Beilein thanked a Roman Catholic priest for his team's shooting performance. His players had plenty to do with it too.

Zack Novak made a career-best six 3-pointers and scored 18 points last night to help Michigan win its second straight, a 74-62 victory over Minnesota. His teammates added seven more shots from beyond the arc to help the Wolverines overcome an off-night by their leading scorer.

"Sometimes you need that first one to go in and then you get in a rhythm," said Novak, who missed his career scoring high by two points.

Manny Harris struggled to score just eight. DeShawn Sims had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Stu Douglass and Kelvin Grady each added a dozen points of their own for the Wolverines (17-10, 7-7 Big Ten), who ended the first half on a 10-2 run and took a 40-25 lead to intermission.

Michigan was 8-for-19 from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes, while the Gophers were just 1-for-10. Novak was 4-for-7 in the first half and ended the game 6-for-10.

Michigan ended the game 13-for-28 from long distance - its most 3-pointers since it had 16 on Dec. 13 - while Minnesota made five of its 28 3-point tries.

The victory gave Michigan consecutive wins for the first time since early January and kept the Wolverines on the NCAA tournament bubble, the same place the Gophers are with four regular-season games remaining.

The Wolverines haven't been at the .500 mark in Big Ten play since a Jan. 24 win over Northwestern left them 4-4.

Devoe Joseph scored 14 points, and Lawrence Westbrook added 12 for the Golden Gophers (19-7, 7-7), who trailed by as many as 25 points midway through the second half. Minnesota was ranked 19th on Feb. 2 but has lost four of five games.

"They made shots tonight," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "I thought we did a pretty good job taking care of the ball, but we just ran into a team that did everything well tonight."

Beilein was just as pleased with his team's work away from the basket. The Wolverines had 21 assists against eight turnovers and scored 17 points off Minnesota's 12 miscues.

"If we can create shots through our offense and defense the way we did tonight, we can beat a lot of people," Beilein said.

The Rev. Chas Canoy of St. Thomas Parish in Ann Arbor sat with Beilein's family during the game and beamed when his parishioner led off his press conference with a word of thanks.



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