Minnesota women’s basketball center Janel McCarville blindsided 5-foot-6 Colorado guard Maria Billingsley on a half-court screen, sending her flying in the opposite direction in the opening minutes of Sunday’s game between the two schools.
This was the tone the Gophers set early Sunday, routing 16th-ranked Colorado 95-61, and winning the Subway Basketball Classic.
The Gophers held the Buffaloes to 16 first-half points and shut down Colorado’s leading scorer, Tera Bjorklund, who scored 33 points Saturday versus Harvard.
Lindsay Whalen, who received her third MVP award in the tournament’s history, scored 24 points to go with four steals.
McCarville, who guarded Bjorklund most of the game, had a double-double, with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
After Whalen converted two fast-break layups, the Gophers capped a 20-6 run with 10 minutes left in the half.
With time running out in the first half, the Buffaloes’ frustration was manifested when McCarville stuffed the 6-foot-5 Bjorklund close to the basket.
Minnesota coach Pam Borton had expressed concern with the performance of her post players after Saturday’s 93-41 pounding of Southern and told McCarville and senior Kadidja Andersson they needed to play better to beat Colorado.
McCarville played solid defense on Bjorklund and company and more than doubled her offensive production.
“I had a really big assignment (Sunday),” McCarville said. “I put it on myself to play well.”
Andersson was three-for-five from the floor and was vital help to McCarville guarding Bjorklund inside.
“The defense pressure in the first half was the key to the game,” Borton said. “We shut down everything that they wanted to do.”
The Gophers looked impressive in their opening two games, and their freshmen class lived up its high expectations.
Guard Kelly Roysland was the first off the bench in both games and scored 17 in the opening game against Southern.
Guard Jamie Broback scored 14 points in the tournament and was able to be a defensive presence subbing at the third guard position.
Forward Liz Podominick came alive in the Colorado game, scoring 15 on a perfect four-for-four from the field with a three-pointer.
“When I came off the bench,” Podominick said, “I just wanted to contribute, and that’s what I did.”
However, Borton isn’t surprised with the freshmen’s play.
“They know that we have high expectations of them,” Borton said. “We needed them to be ready from day one because each of them are going to see anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes each night.”
The Gophers (2-0) travel south to Des Moines, Iowa, to take on Drake on Tuesday night.
After their impressive opening weekend, Minnesota won’t be sneaking up on anyone as it continues in its 17th-toughest nonconference schedule.
“I told the team after the game this is at least what we should expect after every single game,” Borton said.