Women’s hoops finishes undefeated at home

Aaron Blake

Despite her team’s continued dominance of the opposition at home and a blowout win over Wisconsin on Thursday, Minnesota women’s basketball coach Pam Borton emphasized its shortcomings.

She said her team has reached a point where even a 23-point victory can be disappointing. Criticizing both the offense and the defense, Borton said Thursday night was far from her team’s finest moment.

Despite their less-than-stellar play in Borton’s eyes, the 13th-ranked Gophers easily disposed of the Badgers 76-53 in front of 9,753 at Williams Arena on Senior Night.

Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Janel McCarville recorded a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds in her first game since being named conference player of the week.

All-American Lindsay Whalen posted 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists and six steals.

Despite playing a solid all-around game herself, Whalen had sentiments similar to Borton’s.

“After a big win like against Penn State, it’s natural to have a letdown,” the All-American said. “It’s great to win by 23, but we know we have a lot to learn from tonight. Not everything was clicking.”

The win is Minnesota’s sixth straight Big Ten victory and 22nd of the season – equaling the program’s win mark last year, best of the NCAA-era.

The Gophers (22-4, 11-4 Big Ten) also finished the season a perfect 11-0 at home.

Minnesota remains tied with Purdue, who beat Indiana on Thursday, for second place in the Big Ten. Both the Gophers and the Boilermakers still have a chance to win a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a win and a Penn State loss against the Badgers (7-19, 5-10) on Sunday.

Wisconsin coach Jane Albright, coaching her first game since announcing her resignation on Tuesday, felt the Gophers – who forced 26 turnovers – clicked pretty well defensively.

“They do a great job of putting pressure on the point guard,” Albright said. “We turned the ball over a lot and that says a lot about their defense.”

Badgers point guard and leading-scorer Stephanie Rich joked about her near-miss double-double with 10 points and eight turnovers.

Starting their three available seniors – Kim Prince, Corrin Von Wald and Lindsay Lieser – Minnesota battled Wisconsin closely for the first 13 minutes and then pulled away with a 14-2 spurt that made the score 38-24 just before the half.

During the run, the Gophers forced eight Badger turnovers in just under four minutes. Wisconsin finished the half with 14 turnovers and made it to the foul line only once.

Both teams struggled finding the net early in the second half until a Lieser layup spurred a 12-0 Minnesota run that would put the lead at 23 and knock the struggling Badgers out for good.

“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” Borton said. “We want people playing us to think they will be in for a tough time against our defense.”

During their six-game winning streak, Minnesota has held all six opponents below 61 points. The Gophers have also beaten their last four opponents, including Ohio State and Penn State, by at least 16 points.

Minnesota concludes its regular season Sunday at 1 p.m. at Michigan.

The Gophers can win either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in next weekend’s Big Ten tournament with a win Sunday, as they hold tie-breakers over both Purdue and Penn State. Thursday’s win secures at least a No. 3 seed.

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