McCarville provides spurts of toughness inside off bench

Aaron Blake

After her team disposed of Harvard 92-68 in Minnesota’s best win of the young season, coach Pam Borton singled out one player who she felt had an unbelievable game.

“She makes us different with her consistency,” Borton said. “Nobody can play with her when Janel (McCarville) decides to play. She’s played three good games in a row now.”

McCarville has come on in the past three games, getting increased playing time and using it to average 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 26 minutes. She has come off the bench the last six games for the Gophers despite being the reigning Big Ten freshman of the year.

Averaging just over 17 minutes in the first four games of the season, the sophomore center found herself getting in foul trouble and backing up senior Kim Prince.

Playing these limited minutes, McCarville could manage only eight points per game while Prince became an important piece of the offense in the post.

“Early in the preseason I had a hip flexor,” McCarville said. “After that I sprained a ligament in my big toe and sat out a practice. With all that’s happened, I’m not in the shape I should be in right now.

“The past couple games I’ve played a little stronger – almost 100 percent.”

Borton said McCarville was prevented from playing ideal six-to-eight minute stretches early on, but that she’s finally nearing game shape. McCarville concurs, placing her status at 90 percent to 95 percent.

Nonetheless, she hasn’t cracked the starting lineup yet. A year ago she started 28 of 30 games, including all 16 Big Ten matchups.

Despite McCarville’s improved conditioning, Borton isn’t quite ready to plug her right back in to the starting lineup.

“We’re trying to downplay starting,” Borton said. “Right now Janel is playing very well and consistent and is getting her conditioning.

“But Kim Prince has played extremely well and earned her starting position by working hard every day in practice.”

Prince has started every game for the Gophers and is averaging 11.1 points per game. McCarville knows Prince hasn’t done anything to cede her starter status.

“It’s a little frustrating (not starting),” McCarville said. “But coach talked to us about it and said whoever is most consistent and earns it will get it.

“I’d rather have three great post players than one who starts. We’ll be a better team for it.”

The third player in the mix is Kadidja Andersson. McCarville took her place in the starting lineup the first game of the season, only to have the junior forward put up 17 points while shooting 6-for-6 from the field.

Asked about the lineup including both herself and McCarville, Prince liked the idea.

“With both of us playing together, it would be very hard for most teams to guard us,” Prince said. “Not too many Big Ten teams have two post players that can dominate.”

Once McCarville gets into better shape, the solid play of Prince and Andersson means Borton must always keep one on the bench. Still, she says finding enough minutes for three good post players is a nice problem to have.

ï Senior backup guard Trish McGhee is out for the season after tearing the ACL and MCL in her right knee during practice. She sat out most of her freshman season with a similar injury. McGhee averaged 1.7 points per game in limited action this season.

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