Ellis-Milan shines as Gophers avoid home loss to Northwestern

Shooting 31 percent from the field and 10 percent from three-point territory does not make winning easy for any team in the Big Ten. But a late surge by Gophers forward Ashley Ellis-Milan and Northwestern shooting 27 percent from the field allowed Minnesota to squeak out a 43-40 win against the Wildcats at home on Sunday. âÄúIt came down to the last four minutes, and we did what we needed to do at the end to win,âÄù Gophers coach Pam Borton said. âÄúWe havenâÄôt been shooting the ball really well and weâÄôre still able to win.âÄù Minnesota (14-6 overall, 6-3 Big Ten) also shot just 32 percent from the field during its 56-43 loss at Purdue last Thursday, but a weaker 5-15 Northwestern squad provided an easier opportunity for the Gophers to win, especially at home. âÄúI thought defensively we played about as perfectly as we could play to take away their strengths,âÄù Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. âÄúThis was not a game for a fan that is a fan of scoring 100 points.âÄù Ellis-Milan started the game out strong with multiple rebounds and a 3-point play to give the Gophers an early 5-0 lead. The junior forward also finished the game with two key rebounds: an offensive rebound to eventually extend the slim lead and the final defensive rebound of the game to seal the win. âÄúShe [Ellis-Milan] came up with some big plays, and thatâÄôs what veterans do,âÄù Borton said. âÄúShe got the rebounds we needed at the end.âÄù Ellis-Milan finished with nine rebounds and a game-high 13 points, and her post-partner Jackie Vogt also finished with nine rebounds of her own. Minnesota looked to be cruising past Northwestern (5-15 overall, 1-8 Big Ten) early in the game, as senior guard Emily Fox found Ellis-Milan for a short jump-shot to give the Gophers a 11-3 lead just over five minutes into the first half. But MinnesotaâÄôs barrage of 3-pointers in the first half would not fall, as the Gophers finished the first half 1-of-12 from three-point range âÄî a measly 8.3 percent âÄî to keep the Wildcats close at 24-21 going into halftime. Northwestern guard Jenny EckhartâÄôs fast-break layup gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 25-24 with just more than two minutes into the second half. Ellis-Milan gave Minnesota the lead again with a put-pack after her own miss, and Katie OhmâÄôs second three-pointer of the game with nine minutes and 21 seconds left extended the Minnesota lead to 36-31. But NorthwesternâÄôs Brittany Orban made an uncontested layup with less than five minutes remaining to tie the game again at 36-36. A Fox jumper delicately rolled around the rim and fell to give the Gophers a 39-36 lead with two minutes and 37 seconds left in the game. Two quick field goals by Northwestern gave the Wildcats a 40-39 lead with one and a half minutes remaining. But the Gophers put the ball back in Ellis-MilanâÄôs hands, and the junior forward quickly maneuvered around her defender for another bucket to give Minnesota a 41-40 lead. âÄúI did what I was supposed to do the whole game,âÄù Ellis-Milan said of her shot. On the Gophers next possession, Ellis-Milan snagged an offensive rebound on FoxâÄôs jump-shot to maintain the Gophers possession with 14 seconds remaining. Freshman forward Jackie Vogt eventually got to the free-throw line and hit both free throws to give Minnesota a three-point lead with 13 seconds left. Northwestern would miss its final jumper, as Ellis-Milan grabbed the final rebound to end the game. âÄúItâÄôs the team that makes the most plays down the stretch that wins in the Big Ten,âÄù Borton said.