One and done: Gophers hurt chances for NCAA bid with loss to Iowa

After its 61-50 loss to Illinois in the regular season finale , University of Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball coach Pam Borton said her team put itself in position to possibly miss the NCAA tournament without a win at the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers held tight with Iowa early on in pursuit of that crucial win in the quarterfinals Friday, but the Hawkeyes hot shooting may have killed MinnesotaâÄôs hopes of making the NCAA tournament in IowaâÄôs 79-64 win at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. âÄúA win today would have been a lock for us,âÄù Borton said of the GophersâÄô NCAA tournament chances. âÄúThe Big Ten is a very strong conference. We finished in fifth place, and weâÄôll have to wait and see.âÄù While the Gophers may have needed a standout performance from senior Emily Fox to win, it was Iowa senior Wendy Ausdemore who stood out instead to lead the Hawkeyes (21-9 overall, 13-5 Big Ten) to the victory. Averaging 12 points per game this season , Ausdemore broke out against Minnesota (19-11 overall, 11-7 Big Ten) for 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while also hauling in seven rebounds. âÄúSheâÄôs a great player,âÄù Borton said. âÄúWith her playing the four position, the power forward position, it creates a mismatch.âÄù Juniors Brittany McCoy and Ashley Ellis-Milan led the way for the Gophers with 15 points a-piece, while Fox scored 13. Minnesota and Iowa traded baskets in the first seven minutes of the game, with a tie game at 17-17 after a McCoy 3-pointer with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. In the next eight minutes Iowa would quickly gain a double-digit lead as Ausdemore and senior guard Kristi Smith each hit two 3-pointers and the Gophers countered with 2-point shots or missed baskets. The Hawkeyes finished the half up 44-34. While Iowa continued to hit outside shots in the second half, Minnesota fought back by pounding the ball inside to Ellis-Milan down the stretch, using her crafty post-moves to cut into the HawkeyesâÄô lead. Fox slashed the lead to eight points with just over six minutes left in the game with a signature spinning jump shot to give Minnesota some hope of a late comeback. But only a minute later Ausdemore hit another of her four 3-pointers to slow the GophersâÄô momentum, and the Hawkeyes finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field to dismantle MinnesotaâÄôs hopes of a Big Ten tournament run. âÄúI told them at halftime, this is the second half; weâÄôre going to come out hard because this is probably going to be an NCAA tournament berth if they win,âÄù IowaâÄôs Kachine Alexander said, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds. The Gophers still have a chance to make the final cut on NCAA tournament selection day next Monday, but after the loss to Iowa, their chances got much slimmer. âÄúWe needed to come out tonight and win, and we didnâÄôt,âÄù Ellis-Milan said. âÄúAnd it affects our bid for the NCAA tournament; weâÄôre just going to have to see what happens and go from there.âÄù