Strong inside game leads women’s hoops team so far

by Dan Miller

Minnesota women’s basketball senior guard and leading scorer Lindsay Whalen didn’t lead the Gophers in either of the two games in the Bahamas last weekend.

A slump? Double teams, perhaps? No, neither. Ninth-ranked Minnesota’s inside game was just that good.

Senior forward Kadidja Andersson led the Gophers with 18 points against Texas A&M, and junior center Janel McCarville led against Southern California, scoring a career-high 27 points.

Freshman Liz Podominick also broke onto the scene in the Bahamas, recording a double-double versus the Trojans, with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The Gophers (5-0) play host to Creighton tonight at Williams Arena.

The emergence of the Gophers inside game comes as no surprise to Whalen.

“Janel will average a double-double every time a team puts only one defender on her,” Whalen said. “If teams keep doing that, it will be to our advantage.”

Andersson came on during the Texas A&M game after letting the game come to her.

“Earlier this season, (Andersson) was trying to force some things and try to get herself involved in the

offense,” Gophers coach Pam Borton said. “When she lets it come to her and takes what’s given she will be successful like she was against Texas A&M.”

Podominick has quickly become the Gophers’ second leading

rebounder while averaging a hair under 10 points a game.

“I was really counting on Liz to come in and do what she’s doing,” Borton said. “She become an unbelievable rebounder and has a great nose for the ball.”

But what has fueled Minnesota’s high-powered offense and run-up scores on opponents is the ability of its post players to run the floor.

The Gophers have converted tight defense with easy baskets by moving the ball quickly up the floor in the up-tempo style that has become characteristic of the team.

Borton said she feels the style this year will be even more effective than in the past.

“To be a running team we have to have everyone running,” Borton said. “When Janel and Kadidja want to run the floor, no one can run with them. It’s just getting them to do that on a consistent basis.”

If the Gophers have experienced problems in their first five games, it has been trying to force the ball down the court.

“Playing USC, when we had 30 turnovers, everyone was releasing and we had no outlet,” Borton said. “We have to have a happy medium where we want someone releasing, but not all three guards.”

Borton said she wants to get her players back to the mentality of the Nov. 23 Colorado game; when no one was open down court, the post players held the ball and waited for a guard.

But Whalen said those things will come as the season progresses and as the team members develop more comfort and cohesiveness with one another.

“Offense is a lot of timing, and we’re getting to know each other on the court a little better,” Whalen said.

But after averaging 86.6 points per game already this season, and with an emerging inside game, Whalen’s statement of improving offensive inconsistencies is a scary prospect.

“This team is playing with some of the killer instinct they had during the NCAA tournament last year,” Borton said. “They want not just to stick the knife in but turn it.”