Defense enables women’s hoops to pull away in second

Aaron Blake

Heading into the locker room at halftime leading heavily favored Minnesota by five, South Dakota State women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston knew it was too good to be true.

He was right. The Division II first-ranked Jackrabbits wouldn’t come close to replicating that success in the second half.

The Gophers used layups, pressure defense and solid rebounding to overcome the Jackrabbits in the second stanza and propelled themselves to a 93-67 win in front of 3,608 on Friday night at Williams Arena.

“I don’t think we ever got to that point (where we thought we would win), with all due respect to my players,” Johnston said. “They wore us out in the second half.

“But in the first half we came out and surprised them a little bit.”

A little bit might be an understatement. The Jackrabbits hurried the ball up to court and shot over Pam Borton’s pressure defense, making seven of 11 three-pointers en route to 42 first-half points.

“I was very impressed with SDSU in transition,” Borton said. “This was a great game for us and a good learning situation. Every team is going to come after us.”

The Gophers’ defense held the Jackrabbits in check, and Minnesota went on a 20-0 run midway through the second half to secure the win in their final exhibition game. Minnesota out-rebounded South Dakota State 19-10 after the break.

The upset bid by South Dakota State was put to rest during a five minute, 28 second barrage inflicted by Gophers guard Lindsay Whalen and her teammates. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year accounted for 10 of the 20 unanswered points, and the Gophers turned nine turnovers into quick points on the other end.

“Our offense was created by our defense,” Whalen said. “We got in the passing lanes, on the shots and put pressure on the ball.”

Whalen finished with 28 points on 12-for-18 shooting and 10 assists. The team as a whole shot 58.5 percent from the field but committed 23 turnovers – seven on Whalen’s behalf.

Aaron Blake covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]