Buford leads Gophers to season opening victory

Also, senior Ashley Ellis-Milan scored her 1,000th career point.

by Aleutian Calabay

The Gophers womenâÄôs basketball team got their regular season kicked off on the right track Sunday with an 84-45 thrashing of Lamar. The first six minutes of the game told the two biggest stories. First, senior center Ashley Ellis-Milan scored her 1,000th career point on a put-back following an offensive rebound. âÄúIt was nice, especially off an offensive rebound,âÄù Ellis-Milan said. âÄúI think that couldnâÄôt have been better for me because thatâÄôs basically where I get a lot of my points is off rebounds âĦ I enjoyed the moment.âÄù The other key story was the emergence of sophomore guard Kiara Buford as a dynamic scoring threat for the Gophers. In her regular season debut as a starter, Buford scored 10 points in the first six minutes as she paced the Gophers to an early 20-0 lead. Buford went on to score a game-high 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc . Buford also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, giving Buford her first of what could be many career double-doubles. Buford did commit six turnovers in her 31 minutes of work, a fault she admits she needs to work on, but the future is clearly bright for this guard from St. Paul. âÄúI think she [Buford] just plays her game.âÄù Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. âÄúShe attacks the rim, sheâÄôs got pull-ups, she can hit the three, she can play defense, sheâÄôs starting to rebound better. SheâÄôs just tipping the iceberg right now, and I think the best is yet to come.âÄù The Gophers came out focused, playing in mid-season form as they jumped on the Cardinals early on, building a seemingly insurmountable lead of 20-0. Lamar, however, didnâÄôt back down, going a 14-for-2 run to close the score to 22-14. But the Gophers proved to be too much to handle as they physically dominated the Cardinals at both ends of the court. An 8-0 run helped Minnesota push its lead to 40-23 at halftime. The Gophers never let up in the second half, going on a 13-0 run to extend their lead to 63-34. From that point on, a youth movement took place as the Gophers began getting minutes from some of the more inexperienced players. Freshman guard Leah Cotton came off the bench to score 7 points. âÄúI thought it was a great first game for us to start the season, especially with how tough our non-conference schedule is.âÄù Borton said. âÄúI was very pleased with our effort and our intensity throughout the course of the game. It was a good sign for us, and I think when we play âĦ with that type of effort and intensity, thereâÄôs not anyone in the country that we canâÄôt beat.âÄù Minnesota came away controlling the entire box score. The Gophers outshot Lamar .368 to .224. The Gophers also owned the boards, out-rebounding the Cardinals 66-42. Minnesota had three players break into double digit scoring. Along with BufordâÄôs superb effort, senior Katie Ohm had 13 points and Ellis-Milan added 11. Lamar was led in scoring by junior Jenna Plumley, who finished with 17. Minnesota now heads to Utah for its first road test of the season Tuesday at 8 p.m.