Coatney's Call: Michigan Preview
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m. (central)
Pinnacle Bank Arena (Lincoln, Neb.)
Television: NET (BTN.com All-Access Live Video)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
(Matt Coatney-PBP; Jeff Griesch-Analyst)
107.3 FM-KBBK, Lincoln; 93.3 FM-KFFF, Omaha; 880 AM-KRVN, Lexington; 1400 AM-KCOW, Alliance; 1230 AM-KHAS, Hastings; 94.1 FM-KNEB, Scottsbluff; 1430 AM-KRGI, Grand Island; 1340 AM-KSID, Sidney, 1240 AM-KODY, North Platte; 1400 AM-KBRB, Ainsworth
Internet: Free live audio on Huskers.com
Kelsey Griffin. Whenever I hear the name, I immediately get a smile on my face. In over 30 years of covering sports and traveling with various men’s and women’s teams, Kelsey Griffin is hands-down the toughest athlete I’ve ever been around.
From a purely personal standpoint, whenever anyone asks me if I like describing sports on the radio, I delight in telling them about doing play-by-play for Kelsey Griffin during her time at Nebraska. But it’s about much more than that. Its building relationships.
Connie Yori has brought some amazing people into her program who have become life-long friends of mine. I write this blog before every game and I speak for two and a half hours on the radio during every game, and all the words that come from my pen or out of my mouth can’t come close to explaining to anyone how proud I am to be Kelsey Griffin’s friend.
Almost none of it has to do with basketball. She’s just all ‘class’. She’s loyal, humble, dedicated and motivated, and a role model for everything I hope my daughters and hopefully your daughters can become someday. Most of all, Kelsey Griffin is a special person. She’s so deserving of this honor and I know how excited she is to be returning from Australia in the middle of her WNBL pro season to have her jersey retired. It’s one of the special occasions in the history of the Nebraska Women’s basketball program.
After the retirement ceremony, Nebraska will look to break a two-game losing streak when they host Michigan. The Huskers fell at Northwestern 63-59 Sunday evening. Junior guard Tear’a Laudermill erupted for a career-high 18 points and knocked down four three-pointers. Nebraska, ranked fourth nationally in fewest fouls committed per game (14.1), somehow found themselves in a situation in which both Emily Cady and Rachel Theriot had committed three fouls in the first half and had to sit.
The foul trouble was a key factor in allowing Northwestern to rally from a seven-point deficit to tie the game at the half. Husker freshman Allie Havers played big minutes off the bench and had her best game as a Husker. Havers had a career-high 10 rebounds and added eight points, the most she’s scored since tallying 14 in the season-opening win over UCLA.
Nebraska faces a Michigan team that has exceeded pre-season projections. The Wolverines are 14-6 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play after defeating Wisconsin 60-44 in Madison last Sunday. Michigan is undefeated on the road, sporting a glossy 6-0 record away from Ann Arbor.
Last season, the Wolverines advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament while tying a program-record 22 wins. Only one starter returns from that team and only two other players that saw playing time last year.
Shannon Smith, a 5-7 junior guard, leads the team in scoring (14.7 ppg). She played her freshman year at North Carolina before transferring to Trinity Valley Community College, which she led to a junior college national championship and was named the national tournament MVP. Her father Kevin was a former captain for Michigan State and was a forward for the Spartans from 1979-1982.
Freshman Siera Thompson, another 5-7 guard, is another new face on the Michigan roster this season. She is second on the team in scoring (13.5 ppg) and leads the team with 48 three-pointers, knocking down triples at an impressive .471 clip. Thompson is a deadly foul shooter, ranking seventh nationally (52-of-57, .912).
Michigan’s starting lineup has been changeable throughout the season, but 5-11 junior wing Nicole Elmblad is one of two Wolverines to start all 20 games. Last season, Elmblad started at forward, despite being listed as a guard, because of her strong rebounding presence. She had a breakout season, averaging 4.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. This year, Elmblad leads all Big Ten players in minutes played per game (36.5) and has almost tripled her scoring output (12.2 points) while averaging 8.4 rebounds per contest. She also leads Michigan in steals (30).
Forward Cyesha Goree, a 6-3 junior, saw limited playing time last year. Head coach Kim Barnes Arico says Goree is a different player now, having lost over 20 pounds due to improved conditioning in the offseason. Goree has started every game, leads the team in rebounds (9.5 rpg) and adds 11.3 points per contest.
Senior center Val Driscoll rounds out Michigan’s probable starting lineup. The 6-4 Driscoll missed all of 2012-13 due to a knee injury, but has started 15 games this season and leads the team in blocked shots (45). Driscoll adds 4.9 points and 5.5 rebounds despite averaging just over 22 minutes per game.
Sophomore Madison Ristovski is a key contributor. The 5-10 guard started 10 games early this season and averages 9.4 points and is second on the team with 29 three-pointers.
Barnes Arico is in her second season guiding the Michigan program. She spent 10 years as the head coach at St. John’s, guiding the Red Storm to four NCAA Tournaments. Barnes Arico is the winningest coach in St. John’s history.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Michigan 7-1, although the Wolverines won the last meeting in Lincoln, 63-52 at the Devaney Center on Feb. 9, 2012. The Huskers are 4-0 all-time in Ann Arbor, including last season’s 57-39 win. NU opened the second half on a 21-0 run and held Michigan to a season-low 39 points and was the second straight game in which Nebraska limited their opponent to less than 40 points. The Huskers shut out the Wolverines for the first 8:40 of the second half. Jordan Hooper led Nebraska with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
I cordially invite you to join Jeff Griesch and me for Nebraska women’s basketball on the Husker Sports Network. Our radio broadcast Wednesday evening begins with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m. (central) with the tip-off scheduled for 8:00 p.m. on the Husker Sports Network including KBBK (B107.3) in Lincoln, KFFF 93.3 in Omaha, KRVN 880 in Lexington; KCOW 1400 in Alliance, KHAS 1230 in Hastings, KNEB 94.1 in Scottsbluff, KSID 1340 in Sidney, KRGI 1430 in Grand Island, KODY 1240 in North Platte, KBRB 1400 in Ainsworth, and many others. All Husker Women’s Basketball broadcasts are also available for free worldwide on the internet at www.huskers.com. I hope you can join us.
There are a number of ways to get enhanced information about our broadcast and Husker Women’s Basketball via social media. You can learn more about the team on the Nebraska Women’s Basketball Facebook page or follow the team on their official Twitter page @huskerswbb. I also invite you to friend me on Facebook (Matt Coatney) or follow me on Twitter @coatman1.
Go Big Red!