Driscoll, Wolverines show maturity on senior day

Allison Farrand/Daily
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By Shannon Lynch, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 22, 2014

A fire had been lit under senior forward Val Driscoll in her last career home game.

It might have been the fact that she had the chance to walk out onto the court at Crisler Center arm-and-arm with her parents. It might have been that enormous hug she got from Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico. Or it could have been the thrill of holding up her glass-framed jersey amidst the cheers of a home crowd.

Whatever it was, it lifted Driscoll to a memorable game — by halftime, she was just a bucket away from her career-best of 12 points, and she led the team with 18 points and six rebounds at the game’s end. Driscoll’s game can be explained by one stat: She shot 100 percent from the field.

But on paper, it seems that Michigan and Driscoll shouldn’t have much to celebrate on Saturday afternoon, suffering a loss to Iowa in its final home game of the season, 74-70.

After starting the game on a 13-0 run, the Wolverines slowed substantially on offense, allowing the Hawkeyes to take the lead before halftime, 40-31.

Which was bad news for Michigan. This season, it was 1-5 when losing at halftime, compared to a record of 16-3 when leading at the break. And it’s no secret that the Wolverines haven’t responded well under pressure. Before Iowa, they had lost the last four home games.

“It’s hard to take, because we had the opportunities, and we had them on the ropes,” Barnes Arico said. “We had them where we wanted them. We’re pretty good. We’re just a little bit away.”

The team went on a 9-0 run with 15 minutes left in the game, which didn’t come as much of a surprise. Michigan rarely goes down without some fight, but recently, the second-half efforts haven’t been enough to close the gap.

But that 9-0 run turned into much more as the second half wore on, when it looked like every other Wolverine felt the fire Driscoll had ignited. Two critical 3-pointers from sophomore guard Madison Ristovski put Michigan in a great position for a comeback, and it regained the lead for the first time off a layup from Driscoll. The last four minutes went back and forth, and Iowa led by one with just a minute left.

“That just really showed our heart and hustle,” junior guard Nicole Elmblad said. “We really weren’t willing to give in.”

Despite the loss, the Wolverines did something in the second half of this game that Barnes Arico has been stressing for weeks. They played out the final 20 minutes, and they showed a lot of progress.

Junior guard Shannon Smith, known for her scoring, stepped up on defense with three steals. Elmblad and junior forward Cyesha Goree both scored in double digits and racked up nine and seven rebounds, respectively.

“The greatest thing about this team is that we are continuing to improve,” Barnes Arico said. “They’re changing, they are believing and they’re buying in, and I have seen tremendous growth and progress.”

Driscoll and the Wolverines’ comeback may have fallen just short, but they certainly put on a show to remember.