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Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

IU looks for elusive Big Ten success

For the second consecutive season, IU will face Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

The two teams will play at 6:30 p.m. today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with the winner advancing to play No. 2 seed Michigan State at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals.

“It’s a tough matchup, but we’re both in second-year programs of trying to rebuild,” IU Coach Curt Miller said. “And so there’s a little bit of bragging rights in this game.”
Michigan’s rebuilding process started after losing six seniors to graduation at the end of last season.

“Coming into the year, we had graduated four out of five starters, and probably 90 percent of our experience in minutes,” Michigan Coach Kim Barnes Arico said during Tuesday’s Big Ten pre-tournament coaches’ teleconference. “So we weren’t sure what to expect.”

Despite being part of a rebuilding year, Barnes Arico guided her team to a 17-12 record, 8-8 in Big Ten play.

Miller said the Wolverines’ seniors passed down the ability to work.

“I mean, that team was the most successful team in Michigan history last year, and they had six seniors,” he said. “So they passed down work ethic, they passed down how to carry themselves on and off the floor as a Michigan player. They left the returning players with a lot to learn from.”

Both the Wolverines and the Hoosiers ended up playing new players in the backcourt. While freshman guard Siera Thompson was Michigan’s second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, freshman guard Larryn Brooks led IU (18-11, 5-11) in scoring at 15.9 points per game.  

Brooks started alongside fellow freshman Taylor Agler, while Thompson started with junior college transfer and junior Shannon Smith.

Michigan’s starting frontcourt of junior Cyesha Goree and fifth-year senior Val Driscoll are in roles similar to the Hoosiers’ first-year players. Driscoll did not play at all last season due to an injury but has come back while Goree is starting after appearing in just nine games last season.

Goree finished with a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds during the Wolverines’ 70-58 regular season victory against the Hoosiers in Bloomington.

“Now you’ve seen Goree step up and have an unbelievable year after being very much a role player last year. Hardly played at all,” Miller said. “And she’s played herself into one of the premiere players in the league in all of conference season.”

Much like Goree, IU’s freshmen have stepped up. But having a young team presents challenges in preparing for the tournament.

Miller said that as coaches, he and his staff are trying to prepare them for the intensity of the Big Ten Tournament.

“The hard part for them is to realize that the intensity is even higher,” Miller said. “We talk about each and every possession meaning something in Big Ten Conference play, but in tournament play, it’s the difference between winning and losing.”

The two teams also met in the first round of the Big Ten tournament last season, with Michigan defeating IU 67-40. For players like senior center Simone Deloach, it’s been a familiar result, as the Hoosiers have never made it to the second round her past three years at IU.  

“Coach (Miller) always says he wants us to play our best basketball in March,” Deloach said. “It’s March, and we’ve just got to do a better job of executing than we have so far.”

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