INDIANAPOLIS – The Minnesota women’s basketball team opened up the Big Ten tournament on a positive note Thursday as it ended Northwestern’s season during the first round of play.
The Gophers led all 40 minutes of the game and did away with the struggling Wildcats in a 60-43 win at the Conseco Fieldhouse.
Coach Pam Borton said she thought her team was very aggressive and intense and is ready to play another day.
“This was one of our better defensive efforts all season and I thought our shooting in second half was better,” she said.
“March is time when you have to hone up your defense and get aggressive on the boards and we did that tonight.”
Northwestern put the ball in the hands of a freshman guard Beth Marshall and the Gophers’ defensive pressure made it very unpleasant for her all night.
Marshall turned the ball over four times and as a whole, the Wildcats coughed up the ball 21 times.
Minnesota sophomore guard Emily Fox said mixing up the Gophers’ defenses caused some panic from Northwestern (8-22 overall) and allowed her team to open some things up.
“Defensively, we just mixed things up and it really worked well for us,” she said. “And that led to a lot of our offense.”
Minnesota (16-14) was able to convert 15 points off Northwestern’s mistakes. But the Wildcats’ problems were much more abundant than 15 points off turnovers.
Northwestern head coach Beth Combs said she was disappointed that her team had to go out like they did.
“We talked about their press and their trap, so we knew they were coming,” she said.
“They were really able to put us on our heels, and nobody really stepped up for us here today.”
The Gophers, however, didn’t lack players that were willing to step up.
With freshman center Ashley Ellis-Milan continuing to struggle as she went 1-of-5 from the field, freshman forward Korinne Campbell and freshman center Zoe Harper got their opportunities to prove something.
Campbell, who set a career high with 17 rebounds against Michigan State on Sunday, came out strong once more and was able to pull down nine rebounds and score 10 points in the paint while
Harper scored a career-high 10 points before she fouled out for her second consecutive game.
Campbell said she felt like it was time to step up and is excited to get a second shot at Michigan State on Friday.
“Coach was talking to us and brought up that we aren’t freshmen anymore and we have to start stepping up and acting like veterans,” Campbell said.
“The first time against Michigan State I just wanted to win so bad, and I was just looking to tackle someone or do whatever I could to get a rebound, and I want to do the same thing, but get the win this time.”
The Gophers will get a chance to prove themselves as veterans as the rematch against Michigan State is set for tonight after Purdue takes on Wisconsin at noon.
Minnesota senior guard Kelly Roysland said she’s excited to continue playing with her team as long as possible.
“We didn’t want to come in here and play one and be done,” she said.
“We’re playing good basketball right now, and we’re excited to get another crack at Michigan State.”