- Tracy Ko/Daily
By Shannon Lynch, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 13, 2013
After spending the first two years of her Michigan career on the bench, the 2013-14 season is the time for junior forward Cyesha Goree to prove herself. In her first start at Crisler Center for the women’s basketball team Wednesday night, she didn’t waste any time showing Xavier, or head coach Kim Barnes Arico, what she has been working on.
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While junior transfer guard Shannon Smith earned the spotlight for the first two regular-season games, Goree was the surprise playmaker early on in the Wolverines’ 79-75 loss to the Musketeers. In the first nine minutes of play, Goree scored eight points with two rebounds and by the end of the first half, led the team with 10 points, five rebounds and an assist.
This past weekend, Michigan earned its first win against Arizona, a victory that wouldn’t have been possible without a last-second attempt by Goree. As time expired, she hit a turnaround jumper, tying the game at 65 and sending the Wolverines to overtime. Michigan was able to pull out the 73-71 win, the team’s first overtime victory since 2008.
When Michigan trailed in the last few seconds against Xavier, Barnes Arico drew up the final play for Goree, giving her the responsibility to come through for the Wolverines once again. Unfortunately for Michigan, her efforts weren’t enough for a win this time.
“I tell her to try and not get too high or too low, because the other day she was on top of the world making the shot to send us into overtime, and today she misses the one to win the game,” Barnes Arico said. “But she wants to continue to work, and I think her confidence is coming from her working extremely hard.”
Goree played a total of 43 minutes in her first two years as a Wolverine, and in just three games this season, she’s got 97 minutes under her belt. For a player who’s had virtually no playing time since her collegiate career began, she showed confidence in her shooting ability, as well as leadership on defense.
“It feels pretty good just to know that my coaches and my teammates trust me,” Goree said. “Just knowing that we had a big chunk of our program that left – it made me want to work harder and be ready to play however many minutes coach plays me.”
Barnes Arico knows she has asked for quite a lot from her returning players, especially those who hadn’t seen much of time last year. The team is in transition, coping with the loss of five seniors, preseason injuries and considerable inexperience. But so far, Goree in particular has stepped up to Barnes Arico’s challenge of protecting the block ‘M.’
Much of Goree’s success can be attributed to her dedication to fitness during the offseason. Barnes Arico has pointed out more than once that her increasing ability to make a difference is clear, due in part to the fact that she dropped 30 pounds over the summer.
The Wolverines couldn’t pull out the win over Xavier, but Goree racked up some personal victories, finishing the game with her first career double-double – a career-high 16 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes. Her early offensive contributions and effort under pressure sent the message that she’s not to be a forgotten name this season.
Note: Barnes Arico announced the Wolverines signed four players to letters of intent on Wedensday – guard Maria Backman, forward Jillian Dunston, point guard Katelynn Flaherty and forward Emoni Jackson. All four are ranked in the top 120 of the All-Star Girls Report.