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.

hide

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

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 9
Toronto - LP: J. Happ 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 6
Washington - LP: R. Detwiler 1 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 3
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 4 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 3
NY Yankees - WP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 2
Cincinnati - LP: D. Corcino 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: K. Hendricks 3
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Sale 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 0
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: K. Gibson 8
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 0 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 2
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: C. Wilson 5
Texas - WP: R. Ross Jr. 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Doolittle 1
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 5 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 2
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close