Women’s hoops falters in Big Ten Championship

by David McCoy

INDIANAPOLIS – Through the first two games, they were unstoppable, combining for an average of 47.5 points per game to carry Minnesota’s women’s basketball team to the Big Ten title game.

But things were much different come Monday.

Jamie Broback and Janel McCarville went without a single point in the first half of the Big Ten Tournament championship game against Michigan State at Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse.

And though Broback came back to eventually lead all scorers with 18 points, the Spartans held McCarville to only two points on the way to a 55-49 win.

“It was just (Kelli) Roehrig and (Liz) Shimek,” Broback said. “We had it rough inside, and me and (McCarville) missed layups and got frustrated.”

It is the first-ever Big Ten title for Michigan State, which now has the inside track to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Fourth-seeded Minnesota shot a miserable 26.8 percent for the game.

And McCarville, who was so distraught that she broke down and excused herself for several minutes during postgame interviews, played what was possibly the worst game of her career.

The two-time All-American, who is Minnesota’s career leader in field-goal percentage, shot just 1-for-17 from the field and wound up with two points.

The Gophers (24-7) struggled without production from their low-post stars, going almost 18 minutes before making a basket inside the three-point line.

Minnesota’s only basket inside the arc came on a jumper from Liz Podominick with 2:15 left in the half.

“It’s their whole zone (defense) that gives us a problem,’ McCarvile said. “Early on, we could tell shots weren’t falling.”

Despite shooting just 5-of-23 in the half, Minnesota was still able to hang with second-seeded Michigan State (28-3) by holding the Spartans to just 8-of-23 shooting.

Michigan State used a 9-0 run to extend a 9-8 lead to 18-8, and took a 25-20 lead into halftime after a three pointer by Victoria Lucas-Perry with six seconds left.

Broback, who was named to the all-tournament team along with McCarville, came out with energy in the second half. She scored Minnesota’s first eight points to tie the game at 28.

Michigan State responded with three straight baskets to go up 34-28, but then Minnesota erupted on an 11-0 run – during which Broback provided the final seven points – and took a 39-34 lead.

Minnesota maintained its lead with seven minutes to go. But after carrying the Spartans with their defense in the early part of the game, Roehrig and Shimek toppled the Gophers with their offense late in the game.

With the Spartans down 47-42, Shimek and Roehrig teamed up to provide all but two of Michigan State’s points thereafter, as the Spartans outscored the Gophers 12-2 in the final 7:11 of the game.

Minnesota did not make a single field goal during that time, with its only points coming on two Roysland free throws.

“We were not able to score in the last seven minutes of the game, and being up with two minutes left, it came down to the team that could make plays,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “But when your All-American goes 1-for-17 and your team shoots 26 percent, its going to be hard to beat a top-10 team.”

Despite the outcome, Minnesota drew inspiration from the fact that it had never even won a Big Ten quarterfinal game before, and that its season was far from over.

“This game, yeah we lost, but we’re not handing in our uniforms,” Schonrock said. “This was a great game to prepare us for the NCAA Tournament. Maybe the first couple rounds of the NCAA tournament won’t be this tough.”