Sweet new duo leads Minnesota on a return trip to round of 16

Jamie Broback has replaced Lindsay Whalen as Janel McCarville’s sidekick.

David McCoy

Last season, Janel McCarville teamed up with Lindsay Whalen to fuel Minnesota’s women’s basketball team’s first Final Four run.

This season, McCarville’s got a new sidekick – Jamie Broback.

“Jamie and (Janel) play off each other extremely well,” coach Pam Borton said, “probably better than any two post players I’ve ever seen.”

As the third-seeded Gophers (26-7) head to their third-straight Sweet 16 game at 8 p.m. Saturday against second-seeded Baylor in Tempe, Ariz., the one-two punch of Broback and McCarville has been reminiscent of the dynamic McCarville-andWhalen duo that hurtled Minnesota into last year’s Final Four.

McCarville and Whalen were the Gophers’ top two scorers in every NCAA Tournament game last year.

And despite one aberration – the 55-49 Big Ten Championship game loss to Michigan State, in which McCarville scored just two points on 1-for-17 shooting – Broback and McCarville have been first and second in scoring, respectively, each of the last six games.

But the parallels of the chemistry of Broback and McCarville to McCarville and Whalen go far beyond teaming up to lead the team in scoring.

It’s the way they team up to do the scoring.

McCarville and Broback’s high-low passing attack in the paint has devastated opposing defenses through the postseason.

“I think it’s been pretty effective, obviously, and we work so well together that it’s tough to stop,” Broback said. “Obviously, the high-low has picked up a lot and helped us in the postseason.”

The pair’s chemistry was most evident during the Big Ten Tournament, when McCarville, who was just named a second team All-American on Wednesday, assisted on 11 of Broback’s 27 field goals through the three games.

And though the numbers haven’t been quite as high through the first two games of the NCAA Tournament because of limited first-half minutes – for Broback in the first game and McCarville in the second – because of foul trouble, it’s still been much of the same when the two have been on the floor together.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few differences.

“Whalen often would pass to me and cut right away,” McCarville said. “With Broback, it’s 20 seconds into the shot clock when we actually hook up on a pass. Most of the things that happen with me and Broback are just spontaneous. With Whalen, most of the sets were usually planned.”

As McCarville’s new scoring partner, Broback has even come close to mirroring Whalen’s postseason production at this point last year.

Whalen scored a total of 46 points in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament last year, and this year, Broback almost matched it, scoring 40.

In fact, Broback has led the Gophers in scoring the last seven consecutive games.

And it’s largely been because of Broback’s emergence and her ability to click as McCarville’s new complement that Minnesota is still playing in its thirdstraight Sweet 16 – when many thought it wouldn’t come even close without Whalen.

“I think she’s kind of taken that role as being a scorer on the team and not just sitting back and waiting for me to take over a game,” McCarville said. “I think she’s taken it upon herself to step up and have big games no matter what’s going on with me or anybody else on the team.”

Garry done for the year

An MRI showed there was no structural damage, but Gophers walk-on Hannah Garry is done for the year after injuring her knee at practice Friday when she ran into Katie Alsdurf during a drill.

While she could attend in street clothes, Garry will dress for games, though she will not participate in warm-ups or any other activity.