Putting her troubles behind her, Minnesota women’s basketball sophomore Liz Podominick emerged in dramatic fashion to lead the 18th-ranked Gophers to a 79-71 win over defending WNIT champion Creighton on Sunday in Omaha, Neb.
After struggling through the previous four games this season – which included an abysmal two-point, five-foul performance in only six minutes of play against Virginia Tech on Nov. 20 – Podominick scored 20 points in the victory.
“Things hadn’t really been going my way,” Podominick said. “But I prepared myself differently this game. I made sure I was a lot more active, running before and not sitting on the couch or watching TV.”
Podominick’s extra effort led to a solid first half, which included 12 points, 5-for-5 shooting, five rebounds, a block and 2-for-2 three-point shooting – one of those threes just beating the buzzer to give Minnesota (4-1) a 34-19 halftime lead.
Four other Gophers – Kelly Roysland, Jamie Broback, April Calhoun and Janel McCarville – finished in double digits as well.
McCarville barely missed her second-straight double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down nine rebounds. She added a steal, two blocks and seven assists as well.
A team total of 21 assists on 26 field goals displayed just how well the Gophers shared the ball.
“That’s what makes us so dangerous,” coach Pam Borton said. “We have so much talent, and we’re so balanced. Janel doesn’t have to score 30.”
Aside from Podominick, junior Katie Alsdurf was the only other bench player the Gophers used. Alsdurf saw her first action of the season and scored five points after returning from a foot injury.
Borton said the closeness of the game, as well as the absence of defensive stopper Shannon Bolden – who twisted her ankle in practice Tuesday – were the reasons so few bench players were used.
But even without Bolden, who Borton said would be ready for Thursday’s home game against Detroit, Minnesota held Creighton – a team known for three-pointers – to only four attempts.
Borton said her team’s man-to-man coverage was the reason.
McCarville said, “We came out and got into their passing lanes. We just got up in their grill a little bit.”
After falling behind 10-8 early in the first half, the Gophers put together their first of two 11-0 runs, which was started by Podominick’s first three-pointer.
But after the Gophers took a 54-30 lead, the Bluejays cut the Gophers’ lead to 67-60 with just more than four minutes to go by altering their game plan – taking high-percentage shots inside instead of perimeter shots.
But six straight Minnesota free throws in the final 38 seconds secured the Gophers win.
“They really hung in there with us,” McCarville said. “But luckily, we were able to pull through in the end.”