Women’s basketball team handed first loss

by Dan Miller

Minnesota women’s basketball guard Lindsay Whalen pounded her chair as she came to the bench in the second half of the Gophers’ 65-56 loss Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind.

Ninth-ranked Purdue frustrated Whalen and the sixth-ranked Gophers (15-1, 4-1 Big Ten) and ended their four-day reign as the lone undefeated team in the nation.

Despite being out-rebounded 38-29 and giving up 34 points from the line, the Gophers were still in the game late and had two opportunities to tie the game with three minutes left to play.

But the Gophers were unable to knock down the key shots, and the Boilermakers responded with free throws and a lot of Shereka Wright, who scored eight of her 24 points in the final 3:30 of the game.

Minnesota center Janel McCarville led her team with 18 points and kept the Gophers in the game during the first half.

“(Purdue) took away a lot of our weapons,” McCarville said.

Whalen, the nation’s second-leading scorer, struggled by committing nine turnovers and scored most of her 16 points in a late surge at the end of the game.

But Whalen’s struggle was overshadowed by the Gophers putting Purdue on the line and having a large rebounding disparity.

Minnesota held Purdue to 32.6 percent shooting, but the Boilermakers spent most of their offensive time at the free-throw line hitting 34-for-41 (82.9 percent).

The Gophers committed 27 personal fouls, with McCarville, Shannon Bolden and Kadidja Andersson fouling out.

Minnesota coach Pam Borton and the Gophers have realized that with the team’s shallow bench, fouls are becoming a problem.

Minnesota was down to five players left on the court once the three Gophers fouled out.

“Purdue exposed some of our weaknesses,” Borton said.

The Gophers rebounding was also exposed in the loss.

“They owned us on the boards,” McCarville said. “We are going to do a lot of work on that in practice this week.”

Minnesota took the lead twice briefly in the first half, the second coming with 3:58 to go on a Shannon Schonrock three-pointer.

Minnesota had chances in the second half to cut the lead to two or three but couldn’t knock down the key shots.

“We were expecting the game to be a battle,” Schonrock said. “They were the tougher team, and we have to be that team.”

Minnesota, after taking its first step back of the season, won’t have an easy recovery Thursday when it travels to meet Big Ten-leading Penn State in State College, Pa.

Borton wants to use the Gophers’ first loss of the season to refocus her team.

“Obviously we were disappointed with the loss,” Borton said. “But it showed us that we have to be the mentally and physically tougher team.”

Barn notes

• Whalen needs 17 points to pass Carol Ann Shudlick’s scoring record of 2,097 and become the all-time Gophers leading scorer. Shudlick played at Minnesota from 1990-94.

• Second-ranked Texas Tech’s leading scorer Jia Perkins quit the team for medical reasons, coach Marsha Sharp announced Saturday.

• Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante surpassed current Minnesota Lynx guard Katie Smith as the all-time Big Ten leading scorer Sunday, pushing her career total to 2,594 points.