Women’s hoops headed to first ever Sweet 16

Minnesota’s 68-56 upset at Stanford puts the Gophers into the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Aaron Blake

Last season it was close, but no cigar on Tobacco Road for Minnesota’s women’s basketball team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But Monday, the Gophers let Stanford know even Minnesota can get hot.

The sixth-seeded Gophers handed the third-seeded Cardinal its first home loss of the season – and first in 27 games – Monday at Maples Pavilion, with a 68-56 upset victory.

With the win, Minnesota avenges a heart-breaking 72-69 loss at North Carolina last year and advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.

The Gophers (25-5) return to Palo Alto to play the winner of tonight’s game between second-seeded Texas and seventh-seeded Arkansas on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. local time.

“We came in here and we believed in our defense,” Gophers coach Pam Borton said. “We shut them down by holding them to one shot and did a great job executing our offense.”

A solid all-around effort from Minnesota translated into four Gopher starters finishing in double figures scoring and the other one, Janel McCarville, grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds.

Corrin Von Wald led the way offensively for the Gophers with 19 points and some big free throws down the stretch. Lindsay Whalen added 13 points and six assists.

Nicole Powell led Stanford (27-5) with 19 points and seven rebounds.

Minnesota opened the second half holding the Cardinal scoreless for nearly five minutes while the Gophers opened up a lead as big as 10 points at 39-29 on a McCarville putback.

After Powell helped Stanford narrow the lead to 42-39 with a pair of free throws, she was called for her fourth personal foul midway through the half.

Forward Sebnem Kimyacioglu spurred a Stanford comeback after Powell went to the bench, scoring seven consecutive points and forcing Kadidja Andersson into her fourth foul.

Cardinal forward T’Nae Thiel knocked Von Wald down with a screen and then knocked down a big three-pointer to bring the Cardinal within one at 50-49.

After a slight lull, six quick points from the Gophers gave them a 56-49 lead and forced the Cardinal to call a timeout with 4:45 left.

After a Kimyacioglu four-point play, Andersson would pull down consecutive rebounds on the defensive and offensive ends and force Stanford into fouling Von Wald with 55.9 seconds remaining.

After a quick Powell three-pointer made the score 60-56, Von Wald was fouled immediately and hit a pair of free throws with 49.2 seconds left.

McCarville rebounded a Powell miss on the next possession and it was only a matter of free throws for the Gophers from that point on.

Von Wald went six-for-six from the free-throw line in the final minute of the game.

The Cardinal jumped out to an early 12-6 lead in the game on the strength of seven quick Thiel points.

The Gophers kept the game close despite foul trouble. Starting post players McCarville and Andersson picked up their second fouls within three seconds of each other approximately seven minutes into the game, and Andersson got a third late in the half. Senior center Kim Prince was tagged for her second with 2:57 left in the half.

After a five-minute period in which Minnesota held the Cardinal scoreless in the first half, Powell broke into the scoring column in a big way. After a Von Wald three-pointer tied the score at 16, Powell scored nine points from all over on four consecutive trips down the court to give Stanford a 25-21 lead.

Included in her two-minute barrage on the Gophers defense was a three-pointer, a quick jump shot, a putback after two offensive rebounds, and a layup.

Thanks to the stingy type of defense Minnesota displayed Saturday versus Tulane, the Gophers tied the game with 47 seconds remaining in the half on a Prince baseline jump shot. Minnesota took a 31-29 lead into the locker room after a top-of-the-key jumper by Von Wald with four seconds remaining.

Von Wald had nine points to pace the Gophers in the first stanza while Powell led the Cardinal with 11 points and six rebounds, including three offensive.