Was that Mark Price rather than an impostor on the Springfield Civic Center basketball court today? Were these two of the best teams college basketball has to offer?
It certainly didn't look that way as Michigan won the Tipoff Classic, 49-44, over Georgia Tech simply by surviving a game of punishing defenses and offenses that should be punished. There were eight more turnovers (38) than baskets.
Guard Antoine Joubert took control for Michigan (3-0) in the second half, scoring 14 of his 21 points, including two critical free throws with 56 seconds remaining, and was named the game's most valuable player. Freshman forward Tom Hammonds was Tech's leading scorer with 14 points, as Price, an all-America last year, scored just six points and Tech shot 29.6 percent.
Price shot a career-high three air balls, had only two baskets (in 13 attempts), made six turnovers and generally was out of control on offense, helped along by the defense of Michigan's Gary Grant.
"I wasn't patient and I didn't show any leadership on the floor," Price said. "I shot some shots I didn't have and I didn't get the ball to the right people. A lot of the time I wasn't under control. I was trying to make moves I didn't have."
Bobby Cremins, whose team was a consensus preseason No. 1, apologized for a performance he called "embarrassing."
This intense game turned not on Price's offensive offense, but when Bruce Dalrymple, his backcourt partner, got his fourth foul little more than two minutes into the second half.
Until that point, Michigan had scored just 19 points in 39 possessions. Dalrymple's quick hands, uncanny anticipation and strength made things unbearable for Joubert, another of the country's more heralded guards. The Wolverines then scored 25 points in their final 21 possessions.
Tech led, 25-18, at halftime, and the Yellow Jackets' margin would have been greater if they could have converted more fast breaks .
Tech (2-1) had nine fast breaks in the first half and got only five points out of them. At one stage, Tech held Michigan without a field goal for 18 straight possessions, yet increased a two-point lead only to four points.
But it got much easier for Michigan once Dalrymple departed -- especially when center John Salley got his fourth foul and went out with 11:15 to play and Tech ahead, 31-24. A basket by center Roy Tarplay (11 points, 14 rebounds), successive jump shots by Joubert and a free throw by backup center Robert Henderson tied the game at 31, bringing Salley and Dalrymple back into the game with 8:40 to play.
Price's basket brought Tech within 43-41 with 1:34 to play. Then, the left side was cleared for Joubert to go one on one against Price, and he drew a blocking foul. When Joubert made both shots, it was 45-41 with 56 seconds to play.
Price made one of two free throws -- Tech made only 12 of 23 for the game -- and Grant's two free throws with 31 seconds left clinched it.
Said Michigan coach Bill Frieder, "This was the most aggressive game I've ever been involved in for 40 minutes . . . It was a great basketball game. It doesn't look like a great basketball game to the public because they don't understand defense."