Gophers overcome defensive issues to post victory over Northwestern

Minnesota trailed by five at halftime, but forward Jamie Broback led a rally.

by David McCoy

EVANSTON, Ill. – During last year’s visit to Northwestern, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team set a new team record for fewest points allowed – holding Northwestern to a mere total of 40.

This year was much different, as the Gophers allowed 41 points in the first half alone.

It almost cost them dearly.

No. 15 Minnesota came within three minutes of heading into the Big Ten tournament with an embarrassing loss to a conference bottom-feeder but in the end pulled together to salvage a 70-62 win in front of 1,104 fans Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“I was disappointed with the first half,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “Giving up 41 points is absolutely ridiculous.”

This was a game Minnesota (22-6, 12-4 Big Ten) was expected to win handily.

But Northwestern (5-24, 2-14 Big Ten), which celebrated Senior Day by starting all four of its seniors, had other plans.

“You never know what can happen on Senior Day,” Wildcats coach Beth Combs said. “They came out with a lot of emotion.”

While Minnesota came out hot, as well – Shannon Schonrock hit back-to-back threes to start the game – its emotion paled in comparison to Northwestern’s.

The Wildcats shot an impressive 60.9 percent in the first half, and knocked down 5-of-7 three-pointers, charging with a 41-36 lead into halftime.

“Right from the beginning, I could tell they were on a mission,” Gophers center Janel McCarville said.

Minnesota came out much stronger in the second half, holding Northwestern to only four points in the first 7:42 of the frame.

Meanwhile, the Gophers churned out a 9-0 run to take a 47-45 lead.

That lead didn’t last long, as two free throws by Northwestern’s Suzanne Morrison tied it back up and started a nine-minute stretch that included five lead changes and four tie scores.

The score was knotted up at 59-59 with 3:02 left in the game when Jamie Broback went on a personal 5-0 run, driving home a layup and drilling a three from the corner to finally give Minnesota the game.

Broback led Minnesota with the second-highest scoring output of her career, totaling 26 points in only 29 minutes.

McCarville scored 18 for the Gophers and grabbed 12 rebounds for her 45th career double-double.

McCarville also moved into second place all-time in the Big Ten NCAA-era for career rebounds with 1,141.

“(Northwestern) threw the first 10 punches, but we came back,” Borton said. “Jamie and Janel put the game on their shoulders and made sure we won the game.”

Freshman Sara Stutz stole a little attention from Northwestern’s seniors, leading the Wildcats with a career-high 22 points.

Although the win was still overshadowed by the fact that Minnesota came way too close to giving one away to a team they should have trounced, Borton said she wasn’t too concerned, considering the circumstances.

“When you already know you’re in the NCAA Tournament and have the fourth seed in the Big Ten Tournament, you are afraid of a letdown,” Borton said. “You think these games are not important, but they are more important than you realize. I’m not going to say it felt good, but a win is a win right now.”