Minus Whalen, women’s hoops wins on the road

Dan Miller

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team answered a bunch of questions in its 63-54 victory over Illinois in Champaign, Ill., on Sunday.

One of them was: “What do you do if you can’t score inside?” You shoot outside.

The Gophers (19-4, 8-4 Big Ten) shot 60 percent from behind the arc and their backcourt combined for five three-pointers in the final 11 minutes of the game.

The backcourt led the way for the Gophers with sophomore Shannon Bolden scoring 14 of her career-high 18 points in the second half.

Guards Kelly Roysland and Shannon Schonrock each added 14 points for a team that desperately needed scorers after losing leading scorer Lindsay Whalen to injury Thursday.

With Whalen out, the Gophers needed to find other ways to account for one-third of their scoring. They found that in their three starting guards.

“We needed all three of them to step up,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “All three of them gave us a great effort.”

Trailing 33-32 with 11:53 to go in the game, the three guards kept the game alive, scoring 29 of the Gophers’ final 31 points.

Bolden caught fire in the stretch, hitting three three-pointers and scoring 13 points.

Her final bucket came with 4:30 to go in the game that gave the Gophers a tie for their biggest lead of the game, 51-42.

Illinois guard Angelina Williams then scored to cut the lead to 51-46, but Roysland hit a three-pointer, putting the Gophers up 54-46.

Schonrock sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left on the clock.

Minnesota made up for a 37-32 rebounding deficit by holding Illinois to 27 percent shooting from the field.

With Whalen’s absence, the Gophers indicated Friday that their game plan would change. Sunday’s victory showed that to be the case.

The Gophers had more offensive-set plays and looked to play more half-court basketball as they didn’t get any fast break points.

The obvious answer to picking up the scoring slack was to go to second-leading scorer and reigning Big Ten player of the week Janel McCarville.

But McCarville found herself in foul trouble in the game and was held to six points and only five shots.

With Whalen out for at least the next month, Borton said she especially wants to see her inside players emerge.

“We need to get Janel and Kadidja (Andersson) to step up as well,” Borton said. “But right now we have to fix one thing at a time, and we can’t fix everything in one night.”