Gophers blasted out of NCAA tournament

Daily File Photo

Daily File Photo

After its stunning upset win over No. 7 Notre Dame on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament, No. 10 Minnesota legitimized a successful season and lived to play another day. But on Tuesday the Gophers chance of making a Cinderella run into the Sweet 16 was literally stolen away by No. 2 seed Texas A&tâÄôs stifling defense in its 73-42 win over Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Aggies athleticism and aggressiveness on defense seemed overwhelming for the Gophers on every possession, displayed through MinnesotaâÄôs 32 turnovers en route to 34 Texas A&M points. âÄúTheir hands were on a lot of balls,âÄù Gophers senior guard Emily Fox said. âÄúThey were just everywhere and we didnâÄôt adjust. We didnâÄôt control the ball.âÄù In its first round win over Evansville, the Aggies similarly forced their opponent into a style of play it was not comfortable with and caused 30 turnovers in an 80-45 win. âÄúWe win with defense, and weâÄôll continue to win with defense,âÄù Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. While she was near the top of the Big Ten all season long in assist-to-turnover ratio, junior point guard Brittany McCoy could not find the passing lanes on Tuesday with a game-high 10 turnovers to just one assist. The Gophers as a team combined for only seven assists on the night and seven steals, while Texas A&MâÄôs players routinely picked Minnesota playersâÄô pockets for a season-high 20 team steals. With four Aggies players scoring in double figures, Minnesota (20-12) struggled to keep up with their fast-paced tempo and aggressive style of play. âÄúWe came out and did everything right,âÄù Aggies guard Takia Starks, who had 17 points, said. While being undersized down low, Texas A&M senior forward Danielle Gant âÄì 5-foot-11 âÄì led all scorers with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting, with four rebounds, four steals and three assists. âÄúWhen [GantâÄôs] playing the four position, thereâÄôs not too many forwards who can run with her,âÄù Blair said. Having an overall height advantage over Texas A&M (27-7) did not count for much other than a solid performance by Gophers junior center Ashley Ellis-Milan, who had a team-high 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting and six rebounds. The Aggies instead sped by MinnesotaâÄôs defenders for easy layups and tenaciously pulled down rebounds, as Texas A&M out-rebounded the Gophers 33-24 on the night. Rebounding was one of the key reasons Minnesota was able to upset Notre Dame in the first round, snagging 45 rebounds to the IrishâÄôs 32. The Gophers were also extremely hot from behind the 3-point arc late in their game against Notre Dame, with late threes by junior guard Katie Ohm and Fox to help Minnesota finish shooting 57.1 percent from 3-point territory. Fox and Ohm combined to score 38 points in the first round, but against Texas A&M managed only five points together. âÄúYou win with guards, and those two guards are very special,âÄù Blair said. âÄúWe have so much respect for them, but those were the two we were trying to stop.âÄù Shooting 0-of-11 from the field on Tuesday for two points, FoxâÄôs senior season now comes to a close, leaving as seventh on MinnesotaâÄôs career point chart with 1,449 points.