A first for Borton: Minnesota falls in first round

by Emily Wickstrom

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Minnesota’s women’s basketball team ended its season in a way no team in the Pam Borton era is accustomed to – with a first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 8 seed Gophers (19-10, 11-5 Big Ten) exited quickly from the postseason with a 73-69 loss to No. 9 seed Washington on Saturday in Memorial Gym at Vanderbilt University.

It was the earliest a Borton-coached team has lost in the NCAA Tournament in her four years with Minnesota after three straight Sweet Sixteen appearances including an appearance in the 2004 Final Four.

“Obviously losing our last game of the season is extremely disappointing,” Borton said. “I was not even prepared for my end of the year speech, not thinking I was going to go in the locker room and say, ‘This is it.’ “

Both Borton and Washington coach June Daugherty said the biggest factor in the game was the considerable rebounding edge the Huskies held, beating Minnesota on the boards 50-38 and grabbing 23 on the offensive glass.

“I thought our offensive boards kept us in the game in the first half,” Daugherty said. “I’m really proud of the effort that we showed all the way around and not allowing the second shots.”

The Gophers led by as many as nine points midway through the first half, but allowed Washington (19-10, 11-7 Pacific 10) to claw back into the game with multiple second-chance scoring opportunities.

The Huskies had 13 first-half offensive rebounds to Minnesota’s five, and trailed 34-32 at the break.

Washington came out firing in the second half, opening on an 8-2 run to take a five-point lead, 40-35.

Likely the only reason the Gophers stayed close after that was the play of junior guard Kelly Roysland, who had perhaps the greatest game of her Minnesota career and almost single-handedly kept her team in the game.

Roysland scored a career-high 23 points with three three-pointers and was the only Minnesota player in double figures.

With 1:20 remaining, she drove to the hoop, made a basket and was fouled.

After Roysland converted the free throw, the score was tied at 67.

But the game’s next play, with the Gophers desperately needing a defensive stop, demonstrated their inability to rebound against the Huskies.

On Washington’s possession, guard Cameo Hicks missed a jump shot and teammate Breanne Watson grabbed the offensive rebound. A three-point basket from Kristen O’Neill with less than a minute remaining gave the Huskies a 70-67 lead and all but put Minnesota away.

“We just couldn’t come up with the big boards at the big times,” Roysland said.

Other than getting beat on the glass, another reason for the Gophers’ struggles was the absence of junior forward Jamie Broback, Minnesota’s leading scorer, as a factor in the game.

“I felt like we didn’t have Jamie the whole game,” Borton said. “Jamie didn’t play up to her capability offensively or defensively. I thought she was playing scared, and I thought she was playing a little tentative out there, and it was hurting us.”

After scoring just two points in the first half and being subbed in and out of the game three times, Broback played only the first two minutes of the second half before Borton pulled her out and sat her for the remainder of the game. She was subbed in during the game’s last 10 seconds.

“We just really wanted to take her out of the game defensively and just try to keep her away from the hoop,” Watson said. “We were able to do that the first half, and I think she maybe lost her confidence or something.”