Flash dimmed, Gophers advance

Minnesota set a team record for defense, beating St. Francis 64-33 on Saturday.

David McCoy

Probably the last team record one would expect to be broken during the NCAA Tournament would be the one for fewest points allowed.

But, as usually happens in March, the unexpected comes in doses.

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team shut down St. Francis’ offense in record-setting fashion Saturday at Williams Arena, winning 64-33 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The 33 points allowed is a Gophers NCAA-era record and ties the second-fewest allowed in NCAA Tournament history. Connecticut holds the record, having held Long Island to 29 points March 17, 2001.

Third-seeded Minnesota (25-7) advanced to the second round and will play sixth-seeded Virginia tonight at Williams Arena.

“We were very sharp defensively,” coach Pam Borton said. “We had great ball pressure, and we were in the lanes.”

Janel McCarville was the biggest reason for Minnesota’s success defensively.

McCarville came into the game on the heels of a 1-for-17 performance in Minnesota’s previous game – a 55-49 Big Ten Championship game loss to Michigan State.

But McCarville turned the tables on her matchup and held Flash center Beth Swink, who came into the game with the third-best scoring average in the nation at 22.7 points per game, to 3-for-17 shooting and seven points.

McCarville also carried the Gophers through a rocky first half, in which forward Jamie Broback played just five minutes because of three fouls.

McCarville led Minnesota with six points in the half, but her 10 rebounds helped the Gophers to a 24-17 lead.

With Broback back in the second half and avoiding her fourth foul, she and McCarville went on a tear offensively.

The duo opened the second combining for a 12-2 run and pushing Minnesota out to a 36-19 lead.

“I just told her we need her in the game, because foul trouble doesn’t help us,” McCarville said. “It was just the usual: Don’t be dumb and foul.”

In the midst of that run, the Flash’s Regina Schlichter took Broback down hard from behind and was called for an intentional foul.

The hard foul might have been out of frustration because Schlichter was very upset after being called for a foul on the Gophers’ previous possession.

Broback led Minnesota in scoring for the sixth-straight game with 17 points. McCarville finished with 12 points, five blocks and 15 rebounds – 14 of which were defensive.

McCarville, who now has 195 career blocks, also broke Molly Tadich’s team record in that category.

Minnesota didn’t allow St. Francis to score twice in a row in the entire second half and limited the Flash to a mere four field goals.

And while Minnesota shot a solid 26-of-51 for the game, St. Francis shot just 11-of-43.

“We rely on our defense,” Broback said. “That’s the heart and soul of our team. Pam has been talking to us about that in the tournament it’s all about defense.”