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Wolverines can't finish against Xavier in overtime, fall to 1-2

Tracy Ko/Daily
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By Lev Facher, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 13, 2013

After hitting a buzzer-beating jumper to send the Michigan women’s basketball team into overtime against Arizona on Saturday, junior forward Cyesha Goree had the chance to play the hero again with 3.4 seconds on the clock, tied at 69 against Xavier.

But her luck didn’t last — her jumper from the top of the key rimmed out and the game went to overtime, where the Wolverines blew a four-point lead, eventually dropping their home opener at Crisler Center, 79-75.

It was clear from the start that the matchup wouldn’t be a defensive battle. Just eight seconds in, Xavier guard Ashley Wanninger calmly drained a straightaway 3-pointer, setting the tone for a game that would have been a barnburner had the two teams shot better than a combined 7-for-27 from 3-point range in the first half.

But the game wasn’t lacking in shots. Junior guard Shannon Smith came right back with a mid-range jumper to make the score 3-2, and Michigan and the Musketeers kept pace with one another for the next 14 minutes, which saw Xavier frequently hoist shots early in the shot clock, most of which found glass and iron, but not net.

The scoring picked up midway through the half, when three Musketeer 3-pointers within a span of 78 seconds gave them an eight-point lead. The Wolverines, who’d been hanging tough with Xavier offensively for the first 12 minutes, turned the ball over twice to leave the Musketeers’ scoring outburst unanswered, but eventually recovered to send the game to halftime tied at 32.

Junior guard Nicole Elmblad was dominant in the final minutes of the half, but Goree was impactful throughout, putting up 10 points to go along with five rebounds and two assists.

Despite scoring only one point in the first half, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico had freshman guard Siera Thompson — who came off the bench for the first time this season — on the floor to begin the second in place of sophomore guard Madison Ristovski. But the decision turned out to be inconsequential as both guards put up big numbers. Ristovski finished with 12 points, while Thompson added 11 in the half to finish with 12 total, to go along with seven assists and seven rebounds.

“It was nice to see Madison shoot the ball well again,” Barnes Arico said. “She didn’t shoot the ball well when we were on the road, so I think she put some time into that.”

Another small burst of scoring from Elmblad put the Wolverines in front, 51-47, a lead that Thompson quickly extended on a difficult reverse layup, snaking behind the basket and around multiple Xavier defenders.

The game stayed relatively even throughout the rest of the second half, with Michigan holding a slim lead that the Musketeers chipped away at consistently, finally making it disappear on a Brianna Glover layup that tied the game at 69 with just seconds remaining.

After a video review that reversed an out-of-bounds call, giving Michigan possession, Goree got the ball at the top of the key with a chance to be a game-changer for the second time in five days. But she couldn’t convert, sending the Wolverines into overtime for the second time in as many games.

“She wanted it, she had a great look, she had an open look,” Barnes Arico said. “That’s what we went with, and we had a good look. We just didn’t get it to fall.”

Despite failing to beat the buzzer, Goree played the best game of her career for Michigan, putting up 16 points and 14 rebounds, to tally her first career double-double.

Elmblad was equally impressive. Her 19 points — also a career high — and five assists paced the Wolverines, and she was a much-needed force on the glass, as well, recording 12 boards of her own.

“We really stressed getting three people to the glass and trying to crash the boards,” Elmblad said. “I think we did a pretty good job with that at times, but we still need to get better.”

Added Barnes Arico: “Nicole and Cyesha are doing a great job on the boards. My concern is everyone else.”

But the rebounding game picked up as the game wore on — several Michigan offensive rebounds gave the Wolverines ample opportunity to extend their 73-69 lead early in the overtime period, but Musketeers bounced back to take a 77-75 lead with less than a minute left.

Barnes Arico took a timeout after a kicked ball with 7.8 seconds remaining, and had a second opportunity to draw up a last-second play.