Gophers' women's basketball player Riche makes the most of playing the post

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2013 - 7:06 AM

 The Gophers are getting strong inside play from Micaella Riche, who has embraced her role.


Minnesota's Michaella Riche

Photo: Bre Mcgee, Dml -

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Every now and then, Micaella Riche shows she hasn't completely shed her headstrong ways. Gophers associate basketball coach Curtis Loyd recalled checking in with the junior forward last summer, to make sure she was following orders to rest on the team's day off -- and discovered she was running from campus to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

Loyd understood her urge to keep moving. Her unyielding stubbornness, and a crisis of confidence led Riche and her coaches to label her freshman season as a waste. Reluctant to adapt to the physical style required of a post player in the Big Ten, the 6-2 rookie wanted to cry every day over a career that seemed to be going nowhere.

Now she can't go forward fast enough. Once Riche got her mind right, she started the final seven games of her sophomore year and vowed not to reverse course. She enters Thursday's Big Ten home opener against Ohio State as the Gophers' most improved player, averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds for a team whose hopes depend on her ability to thrive in the post.

A summer devoted to working on her game and her conditioning made Riche stronger, fitter and more confident. She is making 58.6 percent of her shots -- tops in the Big Ten and 10th in NCAA Division I -- and is co-captain with guard Rachel Banham.

With opponents concentrating on stopping Banham, the second-leading scorer in the Big Ten, Gophers coach Pam Borton said Riche must score in double digits every game. She also will be counted upon to rebound well, improve her defense and gain consistency. After resisting change as a freshman, Riche has come to embrace it, redirecting her strong will toward a more productive end.

"I've been waiting for this since my freshman year," said Riche, of Gloucester, Ontario. "After I stopped being so stubborn, that's when I started making progress. ... I had such high expectations coming here, and those first two years, I didn't do anything. Now I'm seeing success, and I just want to keep working. I have that hunger."

While Riche said she felt relieved to finally be tapping her potential, Banham said she is proud to see her friend break through.

"I'm glad for her and I'm glad for our team, because we need her," said Banham, who is averaging 20.6 points per game. "If you can't score inside, you're probably not going to win."

Once a finesse player

Though Riche didn't start playing basketball until ninth grade, she was a high school star and member of three Canadian junior national teams. She came to the Gophers as a finesse player and was determined to remain one.

In her first two seasons, Riche played just under 12 minutes per game, averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds while resisting her coaches' efforts to shape her into a rugged Big Ten-style post player.

"Once she played a few games as a freshman and lost her confidence, she doubted herself," Loyd said. "We went back to the drawing board and started over with her skill set, with the way she played. And she blossomed after that."

Breaking into the starting lineup late last season inspired Riche to do everything possible to reach new heights as a junior. Running, weightlifting and yoga improved her stamina, strength and agility. Loyd helped her refine her game, using video of accomplished post players -- from former NBA star David Robinson to former Gophers great Janel McCarville -- to demonstrate proper footwork, positioning and body control.

Better touch, better hands

This season, Riche's improved touch around the basket has boosted her field-goal percentage. Banham, who used to tease her about dropping passes, said that rarely happens now.

"She's catching the ball so well," Banham said. "She's faster, she's smooth with the ball and she can attack."

But Riche has struggled to be consistent. She has scored more than 20 points in three games; in four others, she has finished with six or fewer. Borton said now that Riche has learned to score in many different ways -- via offensive rebounds, by drawing fouls and in transition -- she will be most productive if she stops worrying about her point total and concentrates on being a well-rounded player.

That is on her to-do list, along with sharpening her defense and free-throw shooting. Borton estimated Riche is about halfway to becoming the kind of player she can be. Now that she has a better idea of how to get there, Riche is determined to keep evolving.

"Things are just clicking," she said. "I know now what I need to do, and I have a lot more confidence, a lot more swag. I'm ready for this."

  • related content

  • Preview: Gophers women vs. Ohio State

    Wednesday January 9, 2013

    Gophers at a glance: After opening the Big Ten season with a loss at Michigan State and a victory at Wisconsin, the Gophers (12-4, 1-1) are among six teams tied...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


NY Yankees - LP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 4
Philadelphia - LP: A. Burnett 5 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: D. Gee 6
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Hughes 2
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 8 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 12
Boston - WP: C. Buchholz 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 0
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 6
Texas - LP: N. Cotts 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: J. Veras 3
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 6 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: P. Neshek 9
Oakland - LP: S. Kazmir 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 8
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 5 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 15
Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu 7 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 1
Washington - LP: T. Roark 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: H. Iwakuma 5
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: C. Anderson 6
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 1
Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Red Bull New York 0 FINAL
D.C. 2
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
Chivas USA 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12:00 PM
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Phoenix 77 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question