- Teresa Mathew/Daily
By Shannon Lynch, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 5, 2013
Thursday night in Charlottesville, Va., the Michigan women’s basketball team fought for more than just the block ‘M.’ Representing their conference in the Big Ten/ACC Women’s Basketball Challenge, the Wolverines used effective shooting to up their record to 3-0 in away games with a 73-53 victory over Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena.
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Making it nearly impossible to tell that this team returned just 11.6 percent of its scoring from last season and was playing without junior guard Shannon Smith, its leading scorer, seven different Michigan players scored. The Wolverines were led by junior forward Cyesha Goree, who recorded a career-high 20 points. Not far behind was sophomore guard Madison Ristovski with 13 points and junior guard Nicole Elmblad with 12.
“I think that speaks volumes, especially without Shannon being here, that other people are contributing,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “If you told me that we would be up 16 at half, I would have been in disbelief.”
The win put another notch in Michigan’s belt in the event, as it has the best record of any Big Ten team participating in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, going 5-2 all-time.
Michigan (6-3) looked solid in the first 20 minutes of play and headed to halftime with a 16-point lead over the Cavaliers (3-5). Goree put the Wolverines on the board first with a jump shot, and after Elmblad posted her own first bucket four minutes in, Michigan never relinquished its lead.
The Wolverines shot 54 percent from the floor and never gave Virginia a chance, adding nine more points in the first three minutes of the second half. Ristovski led the team in assists with nine and recorded 13 points, going 6-for-6 on free throws.
Coming off a huge game against No. 15 LSU last week, senior forward Val Driscoll took Smith’s place and impressed once again. She recorded a career-high 12 points with five rebounds and two assists and didn’t miss a shot all night.
“She had a heck of a game tonight, and she’s just getting more and more confident as the season progresses,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s not just out there holding time for somebody else while they are getting their rest. She is out there being a major contributor on our team.”
The Wolverines out-rebounded the Cavaliers, 41-27, and forced nine turnovers. Barnes Arico kept Elmblad on the bench for the last six minutes. Elmblad averages 38.6 minutes per game, so Barnes Arico wanted to give her the chance to rest as the clock ran down.
A number of younger players helped Michigan to its dominant victory, including freshmen guards Siera Thompson and Paige Rakers. Though Thompson only recorded three points in the game, she matched her career high in assists with eight. Rakers also got on the board with five points and four rebounds.
Freshman guard Danielle Williams, who returned to action over Thanksgiving in Brooklyn, N.Y. after suffering a broken finger in preseason workouts, looked confident against the Cavaliers. She went 2-for-2 from the field, both on 3-pointers, and added two free throws, totaling eight points.
“When people needed a break, she had to go in and contribute. So it’s kind of learning on the job,” Barnes Arico said. “So we were so happy for her to be able to make those shots and really play big minutes for us.”