Gophers destroy Winona State in exhibition game

Minnesota controlled the paint during the first half, scoring 20 of its first 35 points in the lane.

Paul Cordes

A lot of questions loomed over the head of the Minnesota women’s basketball team going into its first exhibition game of the year. After a dominating night, a lot of those questions might be clearing up.

The Gophers crushed the Warriors 86-48 on Wednesday night at Williams Arena.

The first half of play was all about Minnesota’s presence in the paint. The Gophers scored 20 of their 35 first-half points in the lane.

And many of those points came because of a solid effort on the boards, as Minnesota grabbed 54 rebounds compared to Winona State’s 27.

Surprisingly, a large part of the rebounding didn’t come from the post players but from the guards.

The Gophers’ guards were responsible for 22 rebounds, and sophomore guard Emily Fox led the team with nine.

Senior guard Kelly Roysland said if the team is going to run the floor this year, it’s going to need some rebounding help from the guards.

“We definitely need to count on the backcourt to really produce and get those rebounds,” she said. “We have a smaller post inside and we have to make it a priority for us guards to average at least three, four, five rebounds a game.”

The slaughter continued in the second half as nearly every Minnesota player was in on the action.

Roysland led the charge with her 12 second-half points, giving her a team-leading 18 on the night. Sophomore guard Emily Fox was a crowd pleaser with her acrobatic drives to the hoop, and a number of her seven assists were no-look passes.

Although the upperclassmen put up big numbers, the freshmen put on the show. Freshmen center Zoe Harper and freshmen guard Brittany McCoy played like experienced veterans.

Harper controlled the paint with eight rebounds and four blocks. McCoy also showed a lot of promise. Four of her 14 points came from fast breaks off her own steals.

Coach Pam Borton said she is pleased with the direction McCoy is headed.

“Brittany does a great job, she has great footwork and she uses her feet extremely well,” Borton said. “She is a very smart basketball player, and I’m really excited about where she’s going.”

Part of the reason for McCoy’s success was the opportunities she saw in Borton’s guard-heavy style of play.

Borton said she has always had a preference for a three-guard system because it makes the team a lot more versatile.

That was exciting news for McCoy, who said she loves to play a faster pace game.

“This is the type of game that I love to play,” she said. “I love having the ability to just run the floor.”

And Borton said as far as the rest of the season goes, people can expect to see the faster and more athletic game the guard-heavy set will bring.

“I think we’re excited to be able to use our length and athleticism,” she said. “Being able to get out and play a fast paced and up-tempo game is something we’re excited about, and we’re going to continue to do.”