In nine years, head coach Pam BortonâÄôs presence on the sideline has been a constant for the Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team. Just six years removed from an appearance in the Final Four, sheâÄôs had her share of success as well.
On Wednesday night, she made another mark on the programâÄôs history.
With the GophersâÄô 82-74 win over Northern Arizona, Borton notched her 173rd win at Minnesota, passing Ellen Mosher Hanson as the programâÄôs all-time winningest coach.
âÄúI think at the end of the year when the seasonâÄôs over IâÄôll have a chance to enjoy it. ItâÄôs probably the furthest thing from my mind,âÄù Borton said. âÄúIâÄôve said this before, but all of the wins mean IâÄôve coached a lot of great players, and you canâÄôt win basketball games without great players.âÄù
Borton may have liked to reach the benchmark with a better performance than the Gophers (8-5) turned out Wednesday, their last non-conference matchup before heading to Illinois on Dec. 30.
The Gophers tallied 22 turnovers Wednesday, a shade above their conference-worst average. But they made up for it by shooting 64 percent from the field in the first half, and finished at 53.8.
Coming into Wednesday, the Gophers had the Big TenâÄôs fourth-highest field goal percentage at 45 percent.
âÄúItâÄôs a good thing we can score points this year,âÄù Borton said. âÄúLast year we couldnâÄôt score 82 points in three games.âÄù
With the Gophers trailing by one midway through the first half, senior China Antoine banked in a three-pointer that launched a 15-2 Minnesota run.
âÄúI think we needed that momentum,âÄù said junior Kiara Buford, who had 17 points Wednesday. âÄúThose moments play a big role in how the end of the game turns out.âÄù
The Lumberjacks fought back, and the Gophers went into halftime holding on to a 42-35 lead. That lead dwindled to just one early in the second, but the Gophers kept fighting off Northern Arizona and didnâÄôt relinquish the lead in the second half.
Sophomore Katie Loberg, who has been battered by injuries all season, made her first start since Dec. 2 and tallied a career-high 20 points along with nine boards. Her final three points came on a fast break layup and subsequent free throw to break the LumberjacksâÄô press in the waning seconds, sealing the game.
Junior forward Jackie Voigt sat out with a twisted ankle and a boot on her left foot, but Borton expects her to be back before the Big Ten season opens.
Senior Kristen Dockery took VoigtâÄôs place, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, her first double-double of her career.
Voigt joins a list of key contributors that have gone down at one point this season, but Dockery continues to fill the void for the injury ward that is the GophersâÄô frontcourt.
âÄúDocâÄôs been starting for I donâÄôt even know how many players. SheâÄôs going to be starting at the point pretty soon,âÄù said Borton, who citied the GophersâÄô need to get healthy in her postgame speech to the announced crowd of 3,137.
Once the Gophers are healthy, however, Borton is confident that there is a high enough ceiling for her team to do some damage in conference play.
âÄúI think youâÄôve seen about 30 percent of what this team can actually do right now,âÄù Borton said. âÄúWeâÄôve got to get better at everything, which makes me excited that weâÄôre still finding a way to win games.âÄù