To get past Baylor in the Sweet 16, Gophers are looking outside

Minnesota’s three guards could be the key to downing the Bears on Saturday.

by David McCoy

Glancing at the starting lineups of Minnesota’s and Baylor’s women’s basketball teams,

you might think the team that wins the matchup inside will win Saturday’s Sweet 16 matchup.

After all, both teams are led by a tandem of post players – the Gophers by Janel McCarville (16 points per game) and Jamie Broback (14.7), and the Bears by Sophia Young (17.8) and Steffanie Blackmon (15.6).

Also, both McCarville and Young lead their respective teams in scoring and rebounding and are U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association All-Americans.

But while these facts certainly make it seem like the battle of the big girls will decide Saturday’s game, Gophers coach Pam Borton said she is not so sure.

“I think it’s going to be what everybody else on the floor does that’s going to be the difference,” she said.

In other words, assuming the tandem of twosomes neutralize each other to some degree, that leaves it up to each team’s respective supporting casts to hash it out.

For the most part, that pits Minnesota’s (26-7) Shannon Bolden, Shannon Schonrock and April Calhoun against Baylor’s (29-3) Chameka Scott, Chelsea Whitaker and Abiola Wabara. Each trio averages

approximately 20 points per game to complement the post players.

The Gophers guards said they are up for the challenge.

“We’re all trying to take our game to another level,” Bolden said. “We know that teams are going to focus on our post players because that’s one of our strengths. But I think me and Shannon and Kelly (Roysland) and April – ‘the others’ – and Liz (Podominick) included, we know how to score, and that’s what makes our team hard to guard.”

Though the guards have struggled periodically this season, their performances in first- and second-round wins over St. Francis and Virginia have to be encouraging.

With foul trouble from Broback in the first game and McCarville in the second, the Gophers saw what they could do without the duo intact. They barely missed a beat, downing the Flash 64-33 and the Cavaliers 73-58.

“I think it builds confidence for myself and obviously my team to know they don’t

need me on the floor every

second of the game,” McCarville said.

Of course, McCarville and Broback’s capacity to stay out of foul trouble this time becomes more important with Young and Blackmon in the game.

But, overall, Borton said

the matchup of “everybody else” is central to whether

Minnesota will break Baylor’s 16-game winning streak and reach its second-straight Elite Eight.

“It was like that last year, when (Lindsay) Whalen and Janel canceled out the stars on other teams,” Borton said. “It’s what your supporting cast does. That’s what it’s going to have to come down to these next few games.”