Gritty comeback gives U 64-61 win on road

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team needed an 18-point run and three final-minute chances for Corrin Von Wald, but overcame Northwestern on Thursday in Evanston, Ill.

The 17th-ranked Gophers (18-4, 7-4 Big Ten) trailed by as many as 18 points in the victory. But the Wildcat shooters would cool off and the Gophers came away with a 64-61 victory.

Von Wald scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but missed a pair of crucial free throws in the final minute before creating some breathing room for Minnesota by hitting her final two.

All-American Lindsay Whalen added 18 points and the Gophers won their second consecutive road game after beginning the Big Ten season 0-4 away from home.

Minnesota was virtually without the services of 2002 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Janel McCarville, who suffered a mild concussion Sunday at Indiana.

The Wildcats (7-17, 2-11) gave Minnesota a dose of its own medicine in the first half. While the Gophers couldn’t find the hoop early, Northwestern made its first five three-pointers to sprint out to a 27-11 lead. A Melissa Culver three appropriately capped off an 18-1 Wildcat run.

The Gophers fought back with a 9-0 spurt to get within single digits, but seven unanswered points from the Wildcats gave them a 36-24 lead heading into the locker room.

Northwestern outshot Minnesota 53.8 percent to 31 percent in the first 20 minutes.

It appeared the second half would be more of the same early on. The Wildcats came out firing again and quickly built their biggest lead of the game at 50-32.

But an aggressive Gopher defense started to force turnovers, fueling an 18-0 Minnesota run which made the game a 50-50 tie with about eight minutes remaining.

Chicago native Leslie Hill, playing in front of a collection of friends and family and for the injured McCarville, spurred the run with a steal, a pair of offensive rebounds and a put-back.

The teams traded baskets until the Gophers took a 61-60 lead into the final minute.

Suzanne Morrison fouled Von Wald and missed the front end of the bonus. After collecting her own rebound, she was fouled in the act of shooting and could hit only the first of two attempts.

Wildcat guard Samantha McComb was fouled by Hill with a chance to tie the game at the charity stripe. After she missed the first and made the second, Von Wald was fouled with 13.1 seconds remaining and Minnesota in the double bonus.

This time, the senior captain would not be denied by the rims, knocking down both free throws and putting the lead at 64-61, which became the final score after a buzzer-beating miss by McComb.

Shudlick to be honored

Former Gopher Carol Ann Shudlick Smith will have her number retired on Sunday during a pre-game ceremony. No. 42 will be raised for the 1994 Wade Trophy winner, awarded to the top player in women’s college basketball.

The Gophers will try to exact revenge on No. 22 Ohio State at 3 p.m. The Buckeyes beat Minnesota 66-58 last Thursday in Columbus.

Aaron Blake covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]