Record crowd cheers on U’s 90-75 win over Purdue

by Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team drew a crowd of 13,117 to Williams Arena on Sunday to watch the Gophers dispose of Purdue 90-75.

The attendance figure was a program milestone, and the game was a benchmark of sorts for Minnesota’s season.

The victory was the 12th-ranked Gophers’ (15-1, 4-1 Big Ten) first over a ranked opponent this season, and ninth-ranked Purdue represented their toughest scheduled opponent.

The record crowd, which bettered the previous mark of 12,142 set Feb. 24 of last season versus Michigan State, boosted Minnesota on a pair of runs in the second half.

“Some games are won on runs,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “In those games, you have to have the last run, and we did today.”

Leading by five points at the half, the Gophers came out on an 18-6 run that put the lead at 17. Purdue (14-3, 3-2) countered with a 12-0 spurt and eventually reduced the lead to 63-61 with 11 minutes remaining in the game.

After Purdue kept it close for five minutes, the Gophers closed the game by outscoring Purdue 16-5.

Sophomore Tanisha Gilbert concurred with Borton and gave an assist to the crowd.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Gilbert said. “When you see 13,000 people in the seats, you feed off that.”

Gilbert was Minnesota’s key on the defensive end, grabbing three steals and drawing several charges at key junctures.

As a team, the Gophers forced 24 turnovers and had 14 steals while turning the ball over only 14 times.

“I thought our defense affected their offense,” Borton said. “We took them out of what they wanted to do.”

Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Lindsay Whalen and Freshman of the Year Janel McCarville provided the offense as Minnesota scored 90 points on the third best defensive team in the Big Ten (59.1 PPG allowed).

Whalen posted 26 points and 10 assists to lead the Gophers, and McCarville scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half and shot 8-for-8 from the field while grabbing nine rebounds.

Both the crowd and the Gophers came out ready in the first half. Minnesota never trailed and led by as many as 11 at 24-13 before the Boilermakers rallied to a 39-34 deficit at the half.

Minnesota built its lead thanks to an offense that didn’t turn the ball over until the 14th minute of play.

McCarville was benched with 11:10 remaining after being called for her second personal foul and didn’t return until the final minute of the half.

She made up for time lost very quickly after the break, scoring the first six points of the half on three layups as the Gophers stretched the lead back to 11 at 45-34.

“I wasn’t a factor in the final 10 minutes of the first half,” McCarville said. “So I came out and hit the first three shots and got the team pumped up. We got excited and just kept rolling.”

McCarville’s three layups started the 18-6 surge that pushed the lead to 57-40 four minutes into the half.

After the attendance was announced during a timeout in the middle of a Gilbert three-point play, Purdue’s Beth Jones hit a three-pointer to bring the lead back to single digits at 81-73.

On Purdue’s next possession, Whalen got her fingertips on an Erika Valek pass and converted on the other end to put the lead in double digits for good.

The Gophers would clamp down defensively and allowed only a pair of Shereka Wright free throws with 21 seconds remaining the rest of the way.

Wright led Purdue with 28 points.

The Gophers play Michigan State next on Thursday in East Lansing.

Aaron Blake covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at Aaron Blake covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]