No. 1 Tigers too much for Gophers

David McCoy

In a showdown between two of the top women’s college basketball players in the nation, Minnesota’s Janel McCarville shined, scoring a career-high 31 points and making a boisterous statement for her Wooden Award candidacy.

But Louisiana State’s Seimone Augustus showed her team is on the fast track for the national championship.

Augustus’ top-ranked Tigers (9-0) shut down the Gophers 75-67 in front of a crowd of 7,659 Tuesday night at Williams Arena.

The Wooden Award favorite didn’t quite compare to McCarville’s stat line of a game-high five steals and 13 rebounds. But the threat of Augustus, who shot 10-of-19 from the field to finish with 22 points, opened up the driving lane for 5-foot-3-inch point guard Temeka Johnson to exploit Minnesota’s guards for a season-high 18 points and 13 assists.

Minnesota (8-2) couldn’t control Johnson, and it was her mismatch with Gophers guard Shannon Schonrock that made the difference.

“We did as good a job as we could on Seimone, but (Johnson) had a field day,” Gophers coach Pam Borton said. “We needed to make her work harder to get those 18 points, because it looked like they were all layups.”

The 16th-ranked Gophers jumped out in front 12-8 in the first half thanks to seven points from McCarville.

But Louisiana State rallied back with a 13-2 run to open a 21-14 lead with just less than eight minutes left in the first half.

Behind Johnson’s eight first-half assists, the Tigers capped a 16-4 run with a Quianna Chaney three-pointer to build a 40-24 lead.

Minnesota showed signs of resurgence just before the half, getting a pair of threes from Schonrock and Katie Alsdurf but trailing at 42-30 at the break.

Shannon Bolden saw limited time in the first half, playing only 12 minutes and handing her responsibility of defending Augustus to April Calhoun while on the bench.

Bolden said she should have done better, even against Augustus.

“She’s a (6-foot-1-inch) guard, so she can shoot over the top of a lot of people,” Bolden said. “(But) I’m not satisfied. Hopefully, we’ll get another shot at them later this season.”

Minnesota was troubled by turnovers in the first half, committing 13 to Louisiana State’s six. Nine of those 13 turnovers came on steals.

But the Gophers opened the second half strong on a 12-5 run, cutting the Tigers’ lead to just five points in the first five minutes.

But the Tigers mounted a 12-2 run of their own en route to a 59-44 lead. Then, they opened their biggest lead of the game at 68-51 with just more than five minutes left.

A late 10-0 surge by Minnesota, which included back-to-back threes by Jamie Broback and Schonrock inside the final two minutes, trimmed Louisiana State’s margin to six.

But despite the exceptional finish, Borton said there are still many things her team needs to work on.

Much of which is getting more out of players not named Janel McCarville.

“We need to get more offensive production out of our guards. Geez, the list goes on,” Borton said. “We need to get better on the boards and more production off the bench.”