Podominick cleared for beginning of Big Ten Tournament on Friday

by David McCoy

It sure took long enough, but at least Minnesota’s women’s basketball team can say it has good timing.

The Gophers are still short one player – freshman Brittney Davis is academically ineligible this semester – but everybody is finally healthy for the first time since Jan. 23.

Sophomore forward Liz Podominick is getting over a bout of mononucleosis, and she will play in this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament on Friday in Indianapolis, where fourth-seeded Minnesota faces fifth-seeded Purdue in the quarterfinals.

Podominick, who hasn’t played since Feb. 6 at Michigan, did a light workout Monday during the team’s day off and took part in full practice Tuesday.

“Is she going to be 100 percent? Absolutely not,” coach Pam Borton said. “But she’s going to be able to give us minutes.”

No. 15 Minnesota (22-6, 12-4 Big Ten) had been without at least one player since Natasha Williams was sidelined with an unspecified illness after an 80-68 win over Illinois on Jan. 23.

Podominick and Williams missed the Feb. 10 game against Michigan State.

While Borton said Podominick won’t be playing as much as six minutes at a time, she will be in for spells of 1 1/2 to two minutes.

And with the game against the Boilermakers being the Gophers’ first of the Big Ten Tournament, the timing couldn’t be any better.

“We are definitely relieved to have Liz back,” Borton said. “She was playing the best basketball of her career when she got sick, and with her experience and presence, those are things we are going to need on the floor.”

Three Gophers honored

Three Minnesota players were recognized when the Big Ten released its annual awards Tuesday.

Senior center Janel McCarville was named a unanimous choice to the All-Big Ten first team by both the coaches and the media, and junior guard Shannon Schonrock and sophomore forward Jamie Broback were named honorable mentions by both.

Broback, who struggled last year with confidence issues, said that was the biggest difference in her play this season.

“I learned to just have confidence in myself,” Broback said. “I think last year that was kind of my biggest thing. But this year, I had more confidence on offense and defense, and that’s what helped me be successful.”

Ohio State center Jessica Davenport, who torched Minnesota for 35 points in the only matchup between the teams Feb. 17, was the coaches’ and media’s player of the year, becoming the first sophomore since Lindsay Whalen to earn the honor.

“She definitely deserved it,” McCarville said. “She’s a great player, and there’s several players I thought had a legitimate chance to get it. She just finished the year strong.”

Penn State’s Tanisha Wright was defensive player of the year, and Wisconsin’s Jolene Anderson was selected by both as freshman of the year.

The coaches picked Ohio State’s Jim Foster as coach of the year, while the media picked Michigan State coach Joanne P. McCallie.

Bennett calls it quits

Indiana women’s basketball coach Kathi Bennett (72-74 at Indiana) announced Tuesday that she will resign as the Hoosiers’ coach at the end of the season.