Gophers win first exhibition

The 82-71 preseason victory came at the hands of a formidable Wisconsin AAU team.

by David McCoy

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team spent most of Wednesday night’s exhibition game against the Wisconsin Vikings working out quirks and establishing chemistry.

But once they got the ball rolling, the crowd of 5,252 at Williams Arena – a huge crowd for an exhibition game – saw flashes of the team that went all the way to last year’s Final Four on its way to a 82-71 victory.

The team Minnesota put on the floor Wednesday was a modest resemblance of last year’s dominating squad, which featured the tandem of Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville.

With Whalen now in the WNBA and McCarville on the bench with a broken bone in her left hand, Minnesota suited up three new starters for the game.

“But that’s what exhibition games are for,” Gophers’ guard April Calhoun said. “Just a chance to get your feet wet.”

Liz Podominick started at center in place of McCarville, and Calhoun started in place of Whalen. Jamie Broback also debuted as the team’s power forward.

Broback said the situation of playing without Whalen and McCarville did not make the team nervous.

“I just think we had to adjust to our new roles,” Broback said.

But it was not the returning starters – point guard Shannon Schonrock and small forward Shannon Bolden – who led the way for the Gophers Wednesday, although Schonrock did equal Broback’s effort of 10 points.

Calhoun led Minnesota’s scoring attack with 16 points. Podominick had 11 points and earned a double-double by adding 10 rebounds.

Minnesota coach Pam Borton said she wasn’t sure how well things would play out when she picked her lineup.

“We had different combinations that played together,” Borton said. “I just was really curious to see how our kids would handle the situation.”

With Minnesota still adjusting to the different combinations, the Vikings kept the score close through most of the game.

Bolden was given the daunting task of covering current WNBA star Anna DeForge, who still dropped 47 points on the Gophers’ defensive specialist.

With just under nine minutes left in the second half, the Gophers broke the game open, going on a 15-4 run to open up a 72-59 lead.

Minnesota extended its lead to 80-65 and held until there were 43 seconds left, when the Vikings made a final rush to end the game at 82-71.

Despite the win, Borton said she still noticed a lot of things the team needs to work on. But, she added, she was pleased with the way the team rebounded – especially without McCarville.

Granted, Minnesota’s opponent Wednesday was not at the level of a top-notch college team. But the way the Gophers came together in the latter part of the game suggested maybe they didn’t need Whalen and McCarville on this night.

Men’s tennis in Wis.

Minnesota’s men’s tennis team went 8-3 in singles matches to advance three players to the round of 16 Wednesday at the Milwaukee Classic in Milwaukee, Wis.

Top-seeded Avery Ticer recorded his first win of the season after a first-round bye, and the Gophers’ doubles teams went 3-0 on the first day of the tournament, which runs through Monday.

The other players Minnesota advanced to the round of 16 were ninth-seeded Nick Edlefsen and Adrien Debreyne.