HOFFMAN ESTATES, ILL. – All they can do now is wait. Though Gophers women’s coach Marlene Stollings believes her team has done enough to secure an invitation to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, she won’t know its fate until March 16, when the field is announced.
But the Gophers won’t be idle over the next eight days. After taking a bit of time to rest and recharge, they will try to repair the flaws in their game that hastened their exit from the Big Ten tournament. The first order of business will be to fortify an uneven defense that has allowed an average of 84 points over the past three games, including an 83-71 loss to Ohio State in Friday’s tournament quarterfinals at the Sears Centre.
The Gophers beat Purdue in the second round Thursday for their 23rd victory of the season, and they were 40th in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index rankings as of Saturday. While Stollings is confident that will get them into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, their postseason could end quickly unless they reverse the trends that have led to three double-digit losses in their past four games.
“Going into the NCAA tournament, we’ve got to come out with that hunger to win,” forward Shae Kelley said. “I think that’s what we’ll be focusing on these next two weeks. I believe in my team. I think we’ll be fine going forward.”
Amanda Zahui B. finished the Big Ten tournament with a number of records. The sophomore center’s 11 blocked shots against Ohio State were a tournament single-game record, and her 14 blocks in the two games were the most for a single tournament. With 22 rebounds in the tournament, Zahui reached 404 for the season, breaking her Big Ten season record of 394 set last year.
Zahui finished with a triple-double against Ohio State (25 points, 11 rebounds, 11 blocks), joining former Gophers standout Janel McCarville as the only players to register a triple-double at the Big Ten tournament.