Gophers fall to Xavier in finals

Minnesota lost to the Musketeers 71-56 in the Junkanoo Jam Tournament.

by Aleutian Calabay

The Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team spent their Thanksgiving holiday in the sun, traveling to Grand Island, Bahamas, for the Junkanoo Jam Tournament. Minnesota opened the tournament with an impressive 61-56 win over Texas Christian University (TCU). The Gophers then moved on to the tournament final, where they lost a hard-fought game to No. 9 Xavier 71-56. âÄúI think we came down here with the mindset to win the whole thing no matter who we were playing,âÄù Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. âÄúIn the Texas Christian game, we came out extremely focused and worked hard, and it was a great win for us. It was a great opportunity to play a top-10 team in Xavier; thereâÄôs not a lot of weaknesses on their team.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs shooting was similar in both games, hitting 0.383 from the field against TCU and 0.359 against Xavier. The Gophers also played both teams closely in both rebounding and turnovers. But the biggest difference in the two games was opponentâÄôs shooting percentage. Minnesota held TCU to just 0.303 from the field, but the hot-handed Xavier shot 0.450 to down the Gophers. Sophomore Jackie Voigt led the way for Minnesota in the tournament, scoring a team-high 17 points against TCU and 13 against Xavier. The effort earned Voigt a spot on the all-tournament team. âÄú[Voigt] really stepped up and is playing really well right now,âÄù Borton said. âÄúSheâÄôs playing consistent; sheâÄôs playing confident, and sheâÄôs getting better every game. IâÄôm very pleased where Jackie is at, and the best is yet to come.âÄù The Gophers jumped out to an early 22-7 lead against TCU, as Voigt scored 12 early points. Minnesota continued to push as they went into halftime with a 32-19 lead. TCU came out strong in the second half, going on a 13-4 run to close the GophersâÄô lead to 4 with less than eight minutes remaining. But Minnesota bounced right back as three-consecutive 3-pointers by China Antoine , Kiara Buford and Voigt helped the Gophers take a commanding 57-41 lead. TCU knocked in a few last-second shots, but it was far too little, too late as Minnesota took the victory. Senior Ashley Ellis-Milan finished the game with her first double-double of the season, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Buford also made it into double-digit scoring, finishing the game with 11 points. Minnesota knew it had a much tougher task at hand in the tournament final facing No. 9 Xavier, the first nationally ranked opponent the Gophers have faced yet this season. Positive momentum carried over for Minnesota from their win over TCU as they maintained an early lead over Xavier throughout most of the first half. Then the MusketeersâÄô offense came to life as they went on a 14-0 run and took a 27-15 halftime lead. The Gophers were not about to go away quietly. They came out and scored the first 6 points of the second half. Baskets by Leah Cotton and Antoine closed XavierâÄôs lead to 5 midway through the second half. But a 13-2 run by the Musketeers halted all momentum for Minnesota as Xavier grabbed a late 61-42 lead and cruised to victory from there. âÄúThe weekend was a great experience for our team,âÄù Ellis-Milan said. âÄúFor us to come out and play the way we did was just amazing for us, and it helped build our confidence knowing we can hang with these teams.âÄù Ellis-Milan had a team-high 14 points. Cotton came off the bench to add 10 points. The Gophers continue their road trip next Thursday at Maryland at 6 p.m. as part of the Big Ten/ACC challenge.