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Posted on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:08 a.m.

Michigan freshman guard Eso Akunne receives extended minutes in Utah loss

By Michael Rothstein

SALT LAKE CITY - The altitude in Salt Lake City was the initial reason freshman guard Eso Akunne expected a few extra minutes. Then Zack Novak came down with the flu and Akunne, a freshman from Ann Arbor, saw his minutes pick up further.

While Michigan will find few bright spots out of its 68-52 loss to Utah, in which all of the Wolverines' problems surfaced again, Akunne stood out.

He played a career-high 17 minutes, scored a career-high three points, made his first college free throw and even picked up a career-high in turnovers with one.

“I thought I did OK, but could have done a lot better on defense and where I’m supposed to be and stuff like that,” said Akunne, a graduate of Gabriel Richard High School. “As time goes on I think I’m going to learn better and everyone is going to learn better.”

Michigan coach John Beilein had planned on playing Akunne early to spell junior guard Manny Harris, who logged an average of 35.9 minutes entering Wednesday's game.

And Akunne, despite everyone on his team other than Harris struggling around him, played well enough to please Beilein.

“He’s a freshman and he's getting better,” Beilein said. “He just really did a good job. He gives us some energy at times that we need.”

Zack Novak out

While Michigan struggled on the court, Zack Novak was left behind at the hotel due to the onset of his illness.

Beilein said the sophomore guard started feeling ill during practice Tuesday night in the Huntsman Center and by the end of the night couldn’t keep any food down.

The result was starting a lineup that included senior forwards Zack Gibson and DeShawn Sims, who couldn't stop Utah’s taller, stronger and perhaps more skilled big men.

“We missed him a lot, absolutely missed him a lot,” Beilein said of Novak. “He’s one guy we could always count on to block his man out, he’s always going to hustle, he’s always going to do some pretty good things.

“This certainly didn’t work out so well today playing big.”

The good news for Novak: Beilein said he’s keeping food down now and he’ll be able to travel back with Michigan to Ann Arbor tomorrow.

“He couldn’t have helped us,” Beilein said. “And it would have hurt him more.”

Beilein disappointed in guard play

Although this is unsurprising considering the way all of Michigan’s guard have played except for Harris, Beilein finally became frustrated with his guards.

Sophomore Laval Lucas-Perry had more turnovers (2) than assists (1) and missed both of his shots. Stu Douglass continued his shooting funk, going 1-for-6 and not grabbing a rebound. Freshman Matt Vogrich missed both of his 3-point shots.

And none of them played particularly well defensively other than freshman Darius Morris, who had 2 steals, 4 assists and 5 rebounds to go with his 7 points.

“All our guards really have a lot to do,” Beilein said. “And we’ll just keep working with them.”

This and that

As the game wound down, Utah’s student section began chanting “Just like football … Just like football.” A year ago, the Utes went to Ann Arbor and beat Michigan in Rich Rodriguez’s first game, 25-23. … Michigan’s 55 percent free-throw shooting was the team’s worst performance of the season. … In the first half, Michigan was outrebounded by Utah, 22-9, with the Utes grabbing 10 offensive rebounds.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:02 a.m.

Ha, Tatertot. Spin it how you want. Love hearing you call Novak your "glue." That is too funny. The fact of the matter is, the sky IS falling and you don't have a chance against many in the big ten this year. I don't know what your team's record is, but I know it isn't good and you haven't played anyone of any caliber yet. Another fact of the matter is, you have a coach who doesn't know how to "coach." It's a gimmick offense, you can't deny it, and it was/has been/is exposed! Good luck getting into the NIT, got I can imagine how envious you all must be of squad down I96.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:20 a.m.

people cried for Gibson and Sims to play on court together, it happened and we were still beaten and outrebounded. My problem with Sims is now his lack of desire to be a big man in the post. He took way too many shots from 3 land. I know he's got a green light from JB, but he has the size and ability to get the bigs on opposing squads in foul trouble which will help our smaller line-up. I am really disappointed with Vogrich and Morris. I know they are freshmen, but so is John Wall. Vogrich's 3 pt display against Northern Michigan gave many false hope and now it's being shown that he has accuracy issues when he even gets on the court. I do have faith that this team will gel and come big ten tourney season will be heard from loudly


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:23 a.m.

Very proud of Eso! Glad to see him getting some ink. He's a very solid player who will leave it all out on the floor. I hope UM can pick it up. I know it's early in the season...but, Utah??


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:06 a.m.

Yes, U-M is in deep doo-doo. Hopefully, we don't mimic the football team and end up in the Big Ten basement.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:50 a.m.

UM is in big trouble now. The total team is in trouble coz the whole philosophy is in trouble. If you setup your team with the incorrect belief that defense, rebounding, scoring inside is not important except 3 points shots. Team can easily defend the 3 point shot... they just extend their defense beyond the arc and the 3 point shots are controlled. It is that easy. Too bad Beilein got exposed too soon and his program is going down this year until he gets fired.