Second round task a tall one for Minnesota

The Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team could have come into its first round game Sunday against No. 7 Notre Dame just happy to be there after being one of the last teams selected to this yearâÄôs NCAA tournament. But the Gophers looked past the obstacles in their way âÄî losing four-of-five games before Sunday, being a 10-seeded underdog, playing the Irish on their home court and having no players who have won a tournament game âÄî and played like a team on a mission in its 79-71 upset win against Notre Dame. âÄúWe had our work cut out for us, playing on their home court,âÄù Gophers coach Pam Borton said after the game. âÄúTheyâÄôre a great basketball team.âÄù While one mission may have been accomplished by getting the chance to play one more game, the obstacle in front of MinnesotaâÄôs next mission is even more daunting. The reward for the Gophers shocking win against Notre Dame is a matchup with No. 2 Texas A&M, a team fresh off an 80-45 rout of 15-seed Evansville in the first round of the tournament. âÄúI know nothing about [Texas A&M], so hopefully my staff did their job. My total focus was on Notre Dame,âÄù Borton said after the first round win. âÄúWeâÄôll get at some film later on today.âÄù The Aggies (26-7), a No. 2 seed for a second-straight year, won an opening-round game for the third-straight season by forcing 30 turnovers that led to 43 Aggies points. Both Texas A&M and Minnesota came out fast in their first-round games, as the Aggies used a 14-0 run early to open a 20-5 lead against Evansville and the Gophers started their game by making 11-of-13 shots to open a 14-point first-half lead. After heavy criticism for its poor shooting in the regular season, Minnesota shot 63 percent from the field in the first half en route to a 42-30 halftime lead. âÄúI definitely felt that we got off to a great start,âÄù senior guard Emily Fox said. âÄúUnfortunately during the season itâÄôs been one of our downfalls, so it felt good to be out there.âÄù After cooling off in the second half when the Irish made their late-game push, the Gophers still finished the game with a shooting percentage of 49.1 percent âÄî their fourth-highest of the season. âÄúThey were very aggressive, they attacked us, we got back on our heels and never really settled in defensively,âÄù Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. While Notre Dame was a talented opponent in its own right, Texas A&M may be another step above. The Aggies finished the regular season ranked No. 9 in the nation before losing the Big 12 tournament championship game to No. 5 Baylor 72-63. To get to the conference championship, Texas A&M took down No. 17 Kansas State in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Oklahoma in the semifinals. Finishing third in the Big 12 conference in the regular season was a feat of its own for the Aggies, as six Big 12 teams finished ranked in the top-25. The Big Ten, on the other hand, finished with only one team ranked in the top-25 âÄì No. 10 Ohio State. But if Minnesota can take on Texas A&M like they did the Buckeyes in its 59-56 upset win on the road in January , the Gophers should be able to stick with the Aggies and compete for a chance to play in the its first Sweet 16 since 2005. âÄúWe donâÄôt want to go home,âÄù Fox said. âÄúI know I want to play another game; our whole team does.âÄù