Minnesota cruises to easy road win over Northern Iowa

Junior guard Emily Fox led all scorers with 15 points in the Gophers’ 68-57 win.

by Mark Heise

After losing several close games in November last season, starting strong was a goal for the Minnesota women’s basketball team this season.

And it’s been something the Gophers have been able to do so far this year, as they dumped Northern Iowa last night on the road, 68-57.

“We came in here and got the win,” junior guard Emily Fox said. “We had a couple of scares, but overall I was happy with how we played.”

Minnesota’s guard play was again a key factor, as Fox led the way with 15 points, followed by sophomore guard Brittany McCoy’s 14 points.

“Those two, I want to call them the dynamic duo,” coach Pam Borton said. “They did a great job of playing within themselves, and Brittany hit some key outside shots for us. If people have to key in on those two a lot, then it’s really going to open up our posts on the inside.”

The Gophers (2-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) didn’t score until two minutes into the game, but once McCoy knocked down the opening three-pointer, things started rolling in the first half. Minnesota outscored Northern Iowa 19-10 over a seven-minute stretch, as the Gophers shot an impressive 44.8 percent from the field in the first half.

Sophomore guard Katie Ohm led the team with nine points in the half, while Fox added seven.

Minnesota forced 18 turnovers in the first half, accounting for most of its 22 points scored off turnovers in the game.

“Coach Borton always emphasizes our defense,” Fox said. “And we’re a team that likes to run, and the only way we can do that is if we can get into the passing lanes and play defense. We want to score in transition if we can, and we did that tonight.”

The Gophers didn’t cool down much in the second half, with a field goal percentage of 40 percent. The Panthers (1-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley) outscored Minnesota by a point in the second half, hitting six three-pointers to keep the game from getting out of hand.

“A team’s going to do whatever it takes to get themselves back into the game, and they’re a team with the ability to hit three-pointers,” Borton said. “We were playing against five kids with three-point range, and when you play a team like that they’re never out of the game.”

But the Gophers still proved to be the dominant team, collecting 45 rebounds, including 29 in the second half to help stave off a late run. Sophomore Ashley Ellis-Milan collected 12 rebounds in the second half alone, helping Minnesota to 16 second-chance points.

“I was really proud of the poise our team had out on the court tonight,” Borton said. “Our kids knew they couldn’t let up, and they didn’t.”

Off the bench, sophomore center Zoe Harper once again provided an offensive spark, scoring 11 points while shooting 5 for 9 from the floor.

“I felt in the beginning we were struggling to finish off in the paint, but towards the end of the game, we were going strong to the basket,” Harper said. “I’ve been working on finishing in the paint, and so far it’s been paying off for us.”

Overall, it was a solid road win for Minnesota, although Fox said there were still some things that needed work.

“If they go on a run and hit a few shots, we can’t back down. We need to step up and make a play,” she said. “In the second half we didn’t respond to their run quite as soon as we should have.”