Sweet send-off: Gophers advance

With an 80-61 win, Minnesota's women's basketball team moves to the Sweet 16.

Dan Miller

As the first half came to a close Tuesday night at Williams Arena, Kansas State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson paused alone on the raised floor looking up at the score.

With an excited Minnesota crowd drowning out the Wildcats’ band and a small number of purple-clad faithful, the eighth-year coach looked stunned.

The scoreboard read Gophers 43, Wildcats 17.

Though the score narrowed slightly, an 80-61 thrashing of second-seeded Kansas State sent the seventh-seeded Gophers to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.

The Gophers will travel to Norfolk, Va., to play Boston College in the Sweet 16 on Sunday.

“We had breakdowns,” Patterson said. “And they happened despite our best intentions.”

It was the Gophers’ intentions that prevailed. Even before the opening tip, Minnesota coach Pam Borton said she foresaw that the Gophers would will their way into the next round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Going into this game I knew our team had the focus and the discipline, and the eye of the tiger, that I just knew we were going to win this basketball game,” she said.

After getting a 31-point performance from Lindsay Whalen in the first round Sunday, the Gophers were fired on all of their cylinders Tuesday.

The Gophers’ stingy defense, led by sophomore guard Shannon Bolden, allowed the Wildcats only 17 points in the first half of play and held them to 23.1 percent shooting in the stretch.

The Gophers had four players in double digits and all three of Minnesota’s freshman, who make up its bench, played more than 17 minutes in the game.

With 5:14 to play in the first half, first-team All-American Nicole Ohlde drained two free throws to end a 16-2 Minnesota run, which led 32-15.

But the bleeding continued. On the next Gophers’ possession Patterson began shaking her head as she watched Minnesota guard Whalen hit a three pointer 5 feet from her spot on the sideline.

The basket for the Gophers’ all-time leading scorer was her first field goal of the game, coming with 3:54 left in the half.

Gophers center Janel McCarville, going against Ohlde, grabbed three more rebounds than points. She scored 15, had a career-high 18 rebounds and added seven assists.

McCarville’s large frame out shadowed Ohlde, who scored many of her 23 points when McCarville was on the bench late in the game with four fouls. The Gophers’ 6-foot-2-inch center overpowered the 6-foot-5-inch inch Ohlde inside and showed her mobility as she often spun to get close to the basket.

“She’s just not a very physical player,” McCarville said. “I was bumping her the whole game. The more I bumped with her the less she liked it and more she didn’t want to go to the bucket.”

Shannon Schonrock was another symbol of the first half dominance. She didn’t miss a shot in the frame, hit three three-pointers and led all scorers in the half with 14 points.

“They were having so much fun out there on the court,” Borton said. “I haven’t seen my team play like this for probably a month and a half.”