Three-year nonconference winning streak at stake at WBCA Classic

Minnesota hasn’t lost a nonconference game since Nov. 23, 2001, to then-No. 9 Stanford.

David McCoy

When Minnesota’s women’s basketball team opens its

regular season Sunday at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Classic in Seattle against UNLV, it will be putting several streaks on the line.

Against the Rebels on Sunday and the Huskies on Monday, the 14th-ranked Gophers will be trying to extend their 30-game nonconference winning streak.

The last time Minnesota lost to a nonconference team was Nov. 23, 2001, in a 96-63 loss to then-No. 9 Stanford.

That was before the arrival of current Gophers coach Pam Borton, who, entering her third year at Minnesota, has never lost a nonconference game.

Minnesota has never lost in November or December under Borton either, holding a 21-0 record.

While these streaks obviously bode well for the Gophers, they said they feel ready for the challenge of maintaining them as they open their season on the road for the first time in eight years.

“(UNLV) will be a more fast-paced team than the teams we played in exhibition,” shooting guard April Calhoun said. “We want to go into the season with a bang.”

While Washington is a lower-level Pac-10 team – its young roster features seven sophomores and five freshmen – UNLV is the defending Mountain West Conference champion and took second place in last season’s Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

The Rebels, who are favored by the Mountain West coaches to win the conference once again, will be without injured starters Sherry McCracklin and Nikki Hitchens.

Minnesota expects this to be its final two games without senior preseason All-American Janel McCarville, who on Monday had her cast taken off and replaced by a splint.

McCarville said she has received encouragement from former Gophers star Lindsay Whalen, who is currently helping coach the team in practice to finish her sports management degree.

Minnesota went through eight games without Whalen last year after she suffered a similar injury.

“Whalen said to keep my head up,” McCarville said.

“She told me getting down won’t help it heal any faster.”

Teammates said playing without McCarville, who will still be making the trip with the team, has only made them stronger and won’t affect their play this weekend.

“The first two exhibition games gave us a taste of

what it’s like without Janel,

and we’ve gained a lot of

confidence,” point guard Shannon Schonrock said. “We’re going to do the things we’re good at and not change anything just because we’re without her.”