Gophers outlast outmatched Bison

by Emily Wickstrom

Were it not for Minnesota forward Jamie Broback, North Dakota State would have had two historic basketball victories in one week.

On Saturday, North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team drew national attention when it upset No. 15 Wisconsin 62-55 in Madison, Wis.

But the 16th-ranked Minnesota women’s basketball team avoided the same result by pulling out a 79-70 victory over the Bison despite a scare Thursday at Williams Arena.

Broback had a career night, scoring 33 points, pulling down nine rebounds ” four on the offensive end ” and recording five steals.

“Jamie did a great job,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “She made huge plays for us on the offensive end and really helped us pull away a little bit.”

Twenty-five of Broback’s points came in the second half, after a dismal first-half performance by the Gophers. Minnesota shot 25.7 percent from the field in the first and found themselves tied with North Dakota State at 28 heading to the halftime locker room.

Minnesota (14-4, 6-1 Big Ten) got off to a strong start, leading 12-2 after the first four minutes.

But the Bison (8-10) responded when the Gophers substituted, going on an 8-0 run to pull within two points.

“We had a lot of mental lapses and a lot of defensive breakdowns,” Borton said.

North Dakota State took the lead 28-26 with less than a minute left in the first half on free throws by Kayla Dahlen.

But luckily for the Gophers, they had Broback to carry them through the second half.

The junior forward shot 11-20 from the field, including two coast-to-coast layups after steals, and made 11 of 12 free throws on a night when many of her teammates struggled offensively.

“They were playing a zone and there were a lot of gaps inside,” Broback said. “I just knew I needed to step up. Obviously, we didn’t have a lot of energy at the end of the first half, and we knew it was critical to start the second half out strong.”

The Bison stuck close to Minnesota for a large portion of the second half, often matching the Gophers basket for basket.

It wasn’t until 5:31 left in the game that Minnesota started to pull away, when it took a 61-51 lead after a Shannon Bolden three-pointer.

“I thought we made the Gophers work for the win,” North Dakota State coach Amy Ruley said. “I don’t think it came easily for them.”

Of particular concern for Borton was the lack of production from her bench players, who have stepped up throughout the season to balance the Gophers’ offensive attack.

“Our bench scored 16 points,” Borton said. “The last time our bench scored 16 points we lost the basketball game,” referring to Minnesota’s 60-56 overtime loss to Purdue on Jan. 12.

Liz Podominick and April Calhoun were the other Gophers players in double figures, with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Calhoun also dished out eight assists.