Women’s hoops unable to post victory in Big Ten tourney over seven-seed Iowa

Despite 18 more shots and only 10 turnovers, Minnesota could not put Iowa away for the third time this season.

Aaron Blake

MINDIANAPOLIS – minnesota women’s basketball coach Pam Borton said it a month ago, after Friday’s game, and several times in between. It’s hard to beat any team three times in a season, especially when that team shoots nearly 60 percent the third time out.

Despite attempting 18 more shots than Iowa and turning the ball over only 10 times, the 13th-ranked Gophers fell to the hot-shooting Hawkeyes 80-77 Friday night in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

Seventh-seeded Iowa (15-13) shot 58.3 percent from the field and 6-of-9 from three-point range to scorch second-seeded Minnesota’s defense coming into the game with confidence.

Prior to Friday’s game, the Gophers (23-5) hadn’t allowed more than 66 points in nine games, dating back to Jan. 26. During that span, they allowed an average of just 58 points game and won their last seven games of the regular season.

“We’ve taken a lot of pride in our defense for the past month,” Borton said. “And it bit us tonight. Any time you give up 80 points, get out-rebounded, and the other team shoots 60 percent, you’re not going to win too many basketball games.”

The loss marks the second consecutive year in which Minnesota bowed out to a lower-seeded team in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Earning the third seed in 2002, the Gophers fell to sixth-seeded Wisconsin 74-64 after beating them twice in the regular season.

“We remembered what happened with Wisconsin last year,” All-Big Ten guard Lindsay Whalen said. “We were definitely looking for a much different outcome this year.

“But for whatever reason, we got outworked tonight. If you want to win a championship or go far in tournaments, you’ve got to work hard. We just didn’t get it done.”

Junior guard Kristi Faulkner led the way for Iowa, making three of her four three-point attempts and finishing with 21 points, while junior forward Jennie Lillis scored 15 and pulled down 13 rebounds.

Whalen paced the Gophers with 22 points and six assists, and All-Big Ten selection Janel McCarville added 20 points and nine rebounds.

Whalen, McCarville and the entire team were aiming higher than just getting past Iowa and into the semifinals – which they’ve done just once in nine years since the Big Ten tournament was reinstated for the 1994-95 season.

“These players came in wanting to do a lot better than they did last year,” Borton said. “We’ve talked about winning a championship, and our focus was to come in here and win the whole thing.

“We just didn’t show it out there. We didn’t come ready to play.”

Despite the confidence the team exuberated heading into the tournament,

encouraging practices, and what Borton called a “great game plan,” the Gophers couldn’t beat the team they demolished by almost 40 points on Jan 12.

Having broken down its 2002-03 campaign into three separate seasons – the regular season, the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament – Minnesota hopes the momentum it gained at the end of the first season will continue into the third.

“We’re just lucky that we have another season,” senior captain Corrin Von Wald said. “So all we can do is go home, look forward to the NCAAs and prepare for that.”

Aaron Blake covers women’s basketball and

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