Poor start overshadows victory as Minnesota beats Kansas at Williams

The Jayhawks jumped out to a 19-4 lead before the Gophers rallied for a 62-45 win.

David McCoy

The state of Kansas has often been referred to as “flat as a pancake.”

But if Minnesota’s women’s basketball team would have began its game against Kansas any flatter, the Gophers would have rivaled the Sunflower State for topographical deficiency.

Minnesota turned over half of its first 10 possessions and made just one of its first eight shots, but the 18th-ranked Gophers still managed to pull out a 62-45 win over the Jayhawks on Sunday in front of 8,862 at Williams Arena.

Minnesota (6-1) fell far behind early, surrendering three straight three-pointers while Kansas (3-3) opened up a 19-4 lead in the first eight minutes.

During that span, the Jayhawks scored on eight of their first 12 possessions.

And although Minnesota pulled within two with just more than five minutes left in the first half, Kansas still took a 33-27 lead into halftime.

But the Gophers battled back in the second half, outscoring the Jayhawks 35-12 the rest of the way.

Minnesota’s transition to success was in large part because of its transition to a trap scheme on defense.

“They were hurting us from our ball screens,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “We weren’t doing good defensively against those, so we made the adjustment to trap the ball screens.”

The Gophers also put defensive stopper Shannon Bolden – who returned for her first start since an ankle injury kept her out of the past two games – on Jayhawks’ Erica Hallman, who paced Kansas with 11 points in the first half but did not score in the second.

Five second-half assists by Janel McCarville, who struggled with just 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, sparked Minnesota’s turnaround offensively.

One of those assists – to Liz Podominick just more than five minutes into the second half – gave the Gophers their first lead of the game at 39-37.

It also launched a 10-0 Gophers run, and Minnesota would never trail again, scoring the game’s final nine points to win their fifth-straight game and improve their nonconference home winning streak to 23 games.

“We just didn’t match their defensive intensity in the second half,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “You’ve got to have an answer to a run, and we didn’t have an answer to a run in the second half.”

Podominick, who scored 14 points and had seven rebounds, came on in the second half, scoring 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting and pulling down five rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

McCarville finished strong as well, leading the Gophers with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and four steals.

But despite the strong finish, the Gophers were still groaning about the beginning.

“Right out of the gates, we were slow,” Gophers point guard Shannon Schonrock said. “On the defensive end, the energy wasn’t there, and they were hot. So that took the wind out of us a little bit. But you can’t expect to fall behind by 15 and still win.”