A Michigan nightmare was brought to life just seven minutes into last Friday”s game with Oakland.
Starting center and emotional leader Chris Young picked up his second foul in an attempt to take a charge. The senior tri-captain was then forced to become a spectator for the remainder of the half. This made Michigan coach Tommy Amaker”s heart race for an instant.
“When he got in foul trouble and we had to take him out we weren”t the same team,” Amaker said.
But it didn”t take long for 7-foot-2 sophomore Josh Moore to ease his mind. Moore celebrated his 21st birthday with a bang, asserting himself on the floor in Young”s place.
The injury-plagued sophomore showed no signs of letting a herniated disk in his back slow him down, as within a minute of entering the game, Moore blocked a shot on the defensive end before racing down the court to score a basket in transition.
Young must stay out of foul trouble tonight as the Wolverines host Fairfield, a small college in Connecticut, at 7 p.m. in Crisler Arena. The Stags were picked second preseason in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and are coming off a season-opening, 68-62 loss to Harvard.
Just five days had past since Moore lamented after Michigan”s last exhibition game against Nike Elite that his back was getting worse, and that surgery was the only cure. But Moore proved on Friday that he”s capable of spelling Young when the Wolverines need him.
“He definitely had a big-time night,” sophomore Bernard Robinson said. “And he only showed half of his talent, because he”s far better than he showed today.”
Moore”s ailing back limits his practice time and can also detract from his effectiveness on the floor if it”s one of his “bad days.” While Moore wasn”t 100 percent, he helped soften the blow of Young”s absence with eight points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of play.
Moore even sacrificed his body by taking a charge in the first half, landing hard on his ailing back.
“Every time I landed on my back it really hurt,” said Moore, who received treatment in an ice-cold tub before the game. “But as I said before, I”ll do anything it takes to help this team win.”
But what surprised everyone was Moore”s 4-for-4 performance from the charity stripe.
“Finally,” said a smiling Moore, a career 24-percent free throw shooter.
While a healthy and effective Moore is key for Michigan”s success this season, so is the ability of Young to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble. Early fouls not only put Young on the bench, but also force one of Michigan”s most active and aggressive players to play tentatively when he does come back into the game.
“There were a couple other times where I wanted to step in, but I couldn”t afford to since I had so many (fouls),” Young said. “But I just wasn”t playing smart.”
Staying alive: Michigan forward LaVell Blanchard”s two injured ankles didn”t seem to hold him back Friday night. The junior logged 35 minutes with 17 points and 14 boards.
Shaq sighting?: After gaining a ton of experience running half-court sets against man-to-man defense throughout the preseason, the Wolverines got plenty of practice against a zone versus Oakland.
The Grizzlies played different versions of an aggressive 2-3 zone that primarily took away the three-point shot and forced Michigan into shooting mid-range jumpers. The Wolverines didn”t mind, as they shot 57 percent from the field, but couldn”t help from becoming surprised that Oakland stuck with the zone for so long.
“I never played against a team that played zone for 40 minutes in my entire life,” Moore said. “You would think they came at us eventually. I mean, I”m not Shaq, and I don”t see Kobe Bryant playing on this team.”