Gophers fall on senior day at Williams

To celebrate her final game in Williams Arena, the University of Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team could have sent out senior guard Emily Fox with a win against Illinois on Sunday. While a victory against the 4-13 Illini looked like it was meant to be for Fox and Minnesota, especially after the Gophers 66-51 win at Michigan State on Thursday, Illinois spoiled the moment for Minnesota by stealing a 61-50 win. âÄúIâÄôm absolutely embarrassed of our performance today on senior day,âÄù Gophers coach Pam Borton said. After a slow start to the Big Ten season by her previous standards, the Gophers captain heated up as of late in scoring 18 points per game in MinnesotaâÄôs past three games. The culmination was on Thursday with a 20 point performance in the Gophers road win over the Spartans, as FoxâÄôs spirited play helped Minnesota attain a key late-season victory. But the same shots Fox hit at Michigan State would not fall at home against a weaker Illini squad, as the Gophers continued their unbalanced play at the end of the conference season. âÄúOur year has been a lot of inconsistency,âÄù Borton said. âÄúWe have a team that settled after the Michigan State win. I think thatâÄôs a lack of leadership on this team.âÄù Fox made only six of her 17 shots for a total of 14 points, including hitting none of her six 3-point attempts. The 5-foot-9 guard looked poised for a big performance in the first half; calling for the ball on the perimeter and slashing hard to the hoop for a layup to give Minnesota an 8-6 lead less than three minutes into the game. But Fox and the Gophers would finish the half on a scoring draught to hit zero shots in the last four and a half minutes, trailing 34-21 at halftime. Minnesota finished the regular season losing four of its last six games, but still enters the Big Ten tournament this weekend with a first-round bye after obtaining the fifth seed. The Gophers obtained the fifth-seed with their victory at Michigan State, out-rebounding the Big TenâÄôs top rebounding team by a 43-35 margin. But Minnesota could not repeat its strong rebounding performance against the conferenceâÄôs 10th-best rebounding team in Illinois, losing the rebounding battle 39-28. âÄúI know how physical Minnesota is, so we focused in on crashing the boards hard and limiting them to one shot,âÄù Illinois coach Jolette Law said. A large factor in the IlliniâÄôs rebounding prowess Sunday was due to the 2006 Minnesota Ms. Basketball and current Illinois forward Jenna Smith. Smith, a Bloomington, native, pulled down a game-high 14 boards, along with a game-high 17 points as she was one of three Illini players who played the entire game Sunday. The 6-foot-3 junior is also an All-American candidate this season but was not the only reason for the Illinois upset win against Minnesota. Along with Smith, the Illini had three other players score in double figures. SmithâÄôs four blocks and overall defensive presence caused the Gophers to attempt more outside shots, but Minnesota hit only 3-of-21 3-point attempts in the game and could not come back from IllinoisâÄô first half lead. âÄúIn the first half we dug ourselves a hole,âÄù Borton said. âÄúIâÄôm very disappointed in our effort today.âÄù