Gophers rally late to nab Classic title

Emily Fox led the way Sunday with 23 points and some big three-point shots.

Mark Heise

What a difference a year makes.

Just one season removed from several close losses in November, the Minnesota women’s basketball team put together a pair of late comebacks at home, topping Western Carolina 70-67 Friday and Louisville 74-69 Sunday to improve to 4-0.

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North Dakota State
what: Women’s Basketball
when: 7 p.m., Tuesday
where: Williams Arena

Coach Pam Borton said she was pleased with the play over the weekend, and attributed the success to a balanced offensive attack.

“I don’t think we’re a very easy team to defend,” she said. “We’ve got six players with nine-plus points on the team, and if you try to shut one down, the next player will step up.”

Minnesota managed to maintain a lead throughout most of the first half against Western Carolina, despite an up-and-down style of play which led to a combined 21 turnovers, including five offensive fouls on the Gophers.

Junior guard Emily Fox put up 12 points in the half, including an impressive run where Fox knocked down a shot on each of four consecutive trips down the floor. The Lady Catamounts’ defense kept Minnesota from hitting a field goal in the final five minutes of the half, allowing Western Carolina to close to 33-30 at the half.

The Lady Catamounts continued their strong play in the second quarter, jumping out to a six-point lead, but Minnesota mounted a 12-2 run late in the game, including two lay ups from sophomore center Zoe Harper, to cement the 70-67 win.

Fox led the Gophers with 18 points, and Catamounts’ senior guard Ashley Pellom came off the bench to net 18, leading Western Carolina.

“We played a great team, and this was a great win for our kids,” Borton said. “The key to this game was winning the battle on the boards, which we did.”

Louisville looked like it would dominate the Gophers, leading 15-2 with 13 minutes left in the first.

But Minnesota clawed back despite a definite inability to defend All-American guard Angel McCoughtry, who compiled 19 points in the first half alone, with more field goals than the rest of her team combined.

Minnesota sophomore Korinne Campbell scored eight points in the first half, including an impressive post move to send the Gophers up by a point briefly in the period. At the end of the half, Minnesota trailed 32-35.

“I think we were kind of wearing them down a bit,” sophomore forward Ashley Ellis-Milan said. “They’re really smooth in transition, but I think we came together towards the end of the half and really started playing.”

The Cardinals got hot again in the second half, out-rebounding Minnesota 21-14, while McCoughtry dropped another 20 points. Louisville extended the lead to 12 at 50-62 with 7:30 left in the game.

But the Gophers weren’t out of it yet, as Ellis-Milan completed a three-point play, sophomore guard Brittany McCoy sank a three-pointer and Fox knocked down a pair of three’s, the last one tying the game at 66 with three minutes remaining.

McCoy split the defense on a drive for a lay up, solidifying Minnesota’s lead at 69-66 with just over a minute remaining, and the Gophers hit five of their last six free throws, sending Louisville to its second straight loss.

“I told my teammates that we were going to win this game, and everyone stepped up and made a big play at the end,” Fox said. “It was amazing, a great team effort.”