Sporting 8-1 road record, Wolverines look to get back on track against Indiana

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By Lev Facher, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 18, 2014

After plunging toward the .500 mark in conference play, the Michigan women’s basketball team is treading water, trying to hold on to its winning record and a spot in the top half of the Big Ten standings just three games away from the Big Ten Tournament.

Wednesday, the Wolverines (7-6 Big Ten, 16-10 overall) travel to Bloomington for their first and only regular-season meeting with Indiana (4-8, 17-8), a team more talented than its conference record would reveal.

“They’re a completely new team from last year,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “They took Nebraska down to the wire (on Feb. 16).”

Michigan’s biggest scoring presence, freshman guard Siera Thompson, will have her hands full on both ends of the court. Indiana’s Larryn Brooks, another freshman guard, is averaging 16.7 points per game this season and has started all 25 of Indiana’s games.

“She has had an exceptional year for them,” Barnes Arico said. “It’ll be interesting to see how those two match up.”

Junior forward Cyesha Goree, coming off the game of her career on Sunday, recorded just three fouls in Michigan’s 70-63 win over Illinois. Staying out of foul trouble allowed her to stay on the court for 37 minutes. The result was a pair of career highs: 30 points and 19 rebounds.

Goree doesn’t need to replicate that performance for the Wolverines to be competitive on the road. Michigan’s typical trio of high-scorers — Thompson, junior forward Nicole Elmblad and junior guard Shannon Smith — normally accounts for more than 29 points, as it did against the Fighting Illini.

Curiously, the Wolverines are 8-1 this year in true road games. The lone loss was a 33-point blowout at the hands of Nebraska.

Michigan is in the midst of its worst skid of the season, having lost five of its past eight games. Indiana, though, has lost eight of its last 11 contests, including several against middle-of-the-pack Big Ten opponents like Wisconsin and Northwestern. That makes Wednesday a viable opportunity for the Wolverines to stay afloat in the Big Ten, get back on track in the final weeks of the regular season and maintain their remarkable road record.

Note: The status of Wednesday’s game was briefly in doubt after an eight-foot metal beam fell from the rafters and into the first level of seating at Assembly Hall in Bloomington Tuesday afternoon. The incident forced the cancellation of the Indiana-Iowa men’s game, which was scheduled for 9 p.m. Tuesday.

In a statement on the school’s website, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said, “University engineers have advised us to postpone events in Assembly Hall until it can be determined what caused the facing to fall and ensure the safety of everyone attending an event in the facility.”

The school also said on Twitter that the Michigan-Indiana game “may be” rescheduled. Nevertheless, the Wolverines boarded their flight for Bloomington on Tuesday afternoon, and the gamble paid off — it was later announced that the game would be played as scheduled.