Women’s hoops: things fall apart

With a loss, the team failed to earn a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament.

Dan Miller

Bad news kept pouring into Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the final day of the Big Ten regular season for Minnesota’s women’s basketball team.

The 12th-ranked Gophers were upset by Michigan State 57-47 and dropped to a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten, missing a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.

Tied for fourth place going into the weekend, all the pieces fell into place for Minnesota to drop two spots in the standings. The loss, coupled with wins by Iowa and Michigan State, makes the Gophers the sixth seed in the tournament.

Minnesota (20-7, 9-7 Big Ten) plays 11th-seeded Northwestern in the first round of the tournament March 4 in Indianapolis. Had the Gophers finished in the top five, they would have earned a first-round bye.

The Wolverines (13-16, 6-10 Big Ten), who put a lot of defensive pressure on the Gophers and led by as much as 18 points in the game Sunday, saw Minnesota make a late run in the second half.

Sophomore point-guard Shannon Schonrock came off a screen and drained a three-pointer, cutting the Wolverines’ lead to five points with 1:18 left in the game. But her next three-point attempt was no good and the Wolverines held on to win in both teams’ final regular season game.

Janel McCarville scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half, but was plagued by early foul trouble.

“Anytime you don’t have Janel on the court, we don’t have the inside presence that we want,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said.

The Gophers switched up their defenses and turned up their pressure in the second half.

Minnesota scored the half’s first six points, with the third basket coming on a McCarville steal and break-away layup.

Michigan’s Stephanie Gandy responded with two inside baskets, the second of which was a three-point play that put Michigan up 40-25.

The Gophers used their defensive pressure to cut the Wolverines’ lead to single digits when freshman Liz Podominick scored inside with 10 minutes to play.

Seniors Jennifer Smith and Gandy led the Wolverines with 19 and 16 points, respectively.

The Wolverines did everything right against the Gophers in the opening minutes of the game. They caused Minnesota turnovers and got McCarville in foul trouble, jumping out to a 16-2 lead.

Smith owned the paint, scoring 13 points in the half. McCarville fouled Smith to pick up her second foul only three minutes into the game.

On a two-game skid, the Gophers enter the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday reeling and trying to find themselves without Whalen.

“We are a whole new team and trying to get better,” Borton said. “We have to go into the Big Ten Tournament on a mission.”

Lions win Big Ten title

Penn State secured its second consecutive Big Ten regular season championship with a comeback win over Purdue on Sunday afternoon.

Trailing 36-22 at halftime, the Lions rallied to outscore the Boilermakers by 23 in the second half.

Kelly Mazzante scored 24 points for the Lions and Tanisha Wright added 16.