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SportsMonday Column: A GameDay to remember, on and off the hardwood

Erin Kirkland/Daily
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By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 19, 2012

February 18 is a day you’ll remember.

There wasn’t a singular moment — an announcement, a shot or an overtime winner — that defined Saturday, though each played a role in the day. But at some point, a chilly day in Ann Arbor took a turn for the legendary.

It was a 24-hour-long rage brigade, a fury of Michigan fervor.

The day started early. A handful of Maize Ragers were huddled outside Gate D at Crisler Center before the clock struck midnight. They were responding to a challenge by ESPN GameDay analyst Rece Davis:

“I think the one thing that Michigan can do in the morning is show itself to be a football and basketball school,” Davis said on Friday.

Camped outside the arena, the Maize Rage made an early statement. Within hours, Michigan proved the rest in an emphatic manner: Michigan is a football, basketball and hockey school.

For a quick summation, Michigan schmoozed with ESPN GameDay all day in a packed Crisler Center, toppled No. 6 Ohio State on the hardwood, swept Northern Michigan at Yost Ice Arena, then picked up six four-star football recruits on the side.

What did you do with your Saturday?

When the gates at Crisler opened at 9:00 a.m., the Maize Rage and hundreds of others filed in. ESPN showed a clip of Denard Robinson heading into the bowels of the arena to give the GameDay crew a pep talk. One shirtless fan stood up to show off his sign:

Kate Upton hates Ohio.

Others joined in.

OSU has Casey Anthony, UM has Kate Upton. You decide.

Jeremy Lin hates the Buckeyes.

I ♥ Denard.

Clearly pop culture wasn’t lost on Michigan, and ESPN captured it all. The Wolverines' basketball program was on the main stage for the first time since the ‘Fab Five’ in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, Michigan coach Brady Hoke and the football staff — just three weeks after finalizing the 2012 recruiting class — were collecting stars like they were playing Super Mario.

The four-star names rifled out by the hour:

12:15 p.m.: offensive lineman Kyle Bosch
12:50 p.m.: running back Wyatt Shallman
2:45 p.m.: cornerback Jourdan Lewis
2:45 p.m.: offensive lineman David Dawson

A few hours later at Yost, junior forward A.J. Treais took a feed from captain Luke Glendening and buried his shot to give the Michigan hockey team an overtime victory on senior night and a series sweep over Northern Michigan.

The win kept the Wolverines in the hunt for their second consecutive CCHA title.

A few blocks away and a few more hours later at Crisler Center, freshman guard Trey Burke led the Wolverines to a 56-51 victory over the Buckeyes.

It was the basketball program’s first victory over Ohio State in seven tries, dating back to Jan. 3, 2010. And this one was in front of a packed house and a nationwide TV audience.

Saturday couldn’t get any better.

Then it did.

10:45 p.m.: four-star offensive lineman Chris Fox
11:20 p.m.: four-star defensive end Taco Charlton

Cha-ching. Charlton had spent the basketball game beside Michigan football coach Brady Hoke and made his announcement in the 11th hour, completing the Wolverines’ most successful 24 hours of recruiting in documented history.

Michigan scored more commits (6) on Saturday than three Ohio State starters — William Buford, Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. — made shots from the field (5).

Six four-star commitments in a day. Series sweep. Beat Ohio (past tense).

Michigan hockey never left. But the football and basketball programs are different stories.

Hoke and Co. brought Michigan back with one season — a 10-2 record punctuated by a Sugar Bowl squeaker. Michigan basketball coach John Beilein brought NCAA Tournament expectations back to Crisler.

“The best part is both programs (basketball and football) are back to where they're supposed to be,” said senior guard Zack Novak on Saturday.

For the seniors, the ones who knew nothing but heartbreak on the hardwood and disaster at the Big House, this is the just reward. The basketball and football teams are now unblemished at home — a combined 23-0 home record in the 2011-12 seasons.

You can’t ask for more than that.

Saturday finally came to a close. But it wasn’t forgotten.

I got a text from a colleague at 1:34 a.m.


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