Women’s hoops victorious in Big Ten opener

by Adam Fink

Minnesota women’s basketball guard Lindsay Whalen was “a little surprised” at how open she was to shoot from beyond the three-point line Thursday night.

“You just get into rhythm,” the senior said.

It was one of those nights for the Gophers – and Whalen – who defeated Michigan 64-44 in both team’s respective Big Ten conference openers at Williams Arena before 10,917 fans.

Whalen made five straight three-pointers in the first half en route to only missing one shot in the opening stanza.

With a season-high 32 points, Whalen led the Gophers offensively but it was the team’s defense that carried Minnesota to the win.

Minnesota (11-0, 1-0 Big Ten) held the Wolverines to only 27.7 percent shooting for the game, a Gophers opponents low for the season.

In addition, the team blocked six shots – a career high five by center Janel McCarville – and notched seven steals.

And Michigan (7-7, 0-1) was never able to get into rhythm offensively.

“If we would have hit a couple of outside shots, it would have helped a lot,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said.

Instead it was up to 6-foot-4 center Jennifer Smith to attempt to break the Gophers stifling defense.

The battle of Smith (16 points, eight rebounds) and McCarville (six points, six assists and six rebounds) led to the most back-and-forth battle of the evening.

Thursday’s win marked a continuing trend of strong defense for the Gophers.

In defeating its past four opponents, Minnesota has not allowed more than 55 points in the wins. For the season, Gophers’ opponents are only shooting 37 percent.

“We are playing consistent right now,” Gophers coach Pam Borton said.

The defensive effort would be more than enough for Minnesota, which only had Whalen in double figures in the scoring column.

Whalen had 21 points by halftime, one more than the entire Michigan squad scored.

Next up for the Gophers is a nationally televised game against South Carolina on Saturday.

While emotions ran a little higher than normal, getting a win in the conference opener and setting the tone for the rest of the season was crucial.

“We were pretty pumped up,” McCarville said. “We want to get into the season. We are anxious.”

Saturday’s game starts at 3:05 from Williams Arena and will be televised on CBS.

ï Michigan played without second-leading scorer Tabitha Pool, who did not accompany the team on the trip.

The team said Pool, averaging 13 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, missed the game for personal reasons.

ï Along with Whalen’s 31 point effort Monday at Virginia, the guard has notched back-to-back 30 point games for the first time.

She is now only 20 points away from 2,000 for her career.

Men’s team loses

Earlier in the week, Gophers men’s basketball coach Dan Monson said the next two games could determine how the rest of the season goes.

Get ready for a long year, Gopher fans.

After losing at home to Nebraska on Monday, the Gophers (6-4) lost at Texas Tech 90-73 on Monday afternoon.

Turnovers hurt the Gophers. Minnesota gave the ball away 19 times.

Despite facing an early double-digit deficit, Minnesota clawed to within seven points at 44-37 with just over 17 minutes remaining in the contest.

Minnesota would go no closer.

Forward Kris Humphries led Minnesota with 21 points and eight rebounds. Ben Johnson added 11 points.

Minnesota returns to action Sunday against Wofford at Williams Arena.