U women's basketball hopes Big Ten run lands NCAA at-large bid

  • Article by: DENNIS BRACKIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 7, 2013 - 6:34 AM

Gophers women fight not to miss the NCAAs for a fourth year in a row.

hide

At the Williams Arena in a game between Penn State and the U of M women's basketball team, U of M head coach Pam Borton exhorted her troops during a timeout .

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii , Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Katie Loberg was in grade school when the Gophers women’s basketball team made its run to the Final Four in 2004, and as she matured into a standout at Princeton High School it became easy for her to envision herself following in the footsteps of Lindsay Whalen, Janel McCarville and other names.

Now the 6-4 senior is staring at the end of her college career and the distinct possibility she will never appear in an NCAA tournament.

“It’s very upsetting,” Loberg said. “It’s something you dream about doing since you’re little, and watching the Gophers go in 2004, I just kind of figured it was a given, something that was going to happen.”

The Gophers would be out of the tournament for a fourth consecutive year if their season was being judged as of now. But Minnesota gets another chance to pad that résumé — an overall record of 18-12 and 7-9 in the Big Ten — at this week’s Big Ten tournament, with a Thursday opener against an Ohio State team that the Gophers have already beaten twice.

Minnesota breathed some life into its NCAA hopes by winning its final two conference games — including a victory over league champ Penn State, which Minnesota would face again in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers might no longer need to win the Big Ten tournament to secure an NCAA bid, although anything less would leave them on that precarious perch known as “the bubble.”

“I think we’re in a great situation,” Gophers coach Pam Borton after her team’s strong conference finish, which included victories in the final two road games, at Ohio State and Indiana.

A tournament run would certainly help silence Borton’s critics. The Gophers suffered a fourth losing conference season in a row and have seen attendance slump to under 3,500 from almost 10,000 in 2003-04. Borton, who received a two-year contract extension — taking her through 2015-16 — in June from outgoing AD Joel Maturi, also failed to land either of the state’s two McDonald’s All-America high school seniors: Braham’s Rebekah Dahlman (Vanderbilt) and Hopkins’ Nia Coffey (Northwestern).

“That’s just the nature of the business,” Borton said of the criticism. “When we start worrying about what everyone else is saying, then we’re worried about the wrong things.”

Optimistic about future

Borton says she is optimistic about the future, both long and short term. The Gophers have been competitive against every team in the Big Ten with the exception of two one-sided losses to Nebraska — 84-63 on Jan. 20 and 80-56 on Feb. 3. And Nebraska is in the opposite bracket of the conference tourney.

The key for the Gophers, as it has been throughout the season, will be playing consistent defense. Borton’s trademark before this season was a tough, hard-nosed defense and an offense that was at times difficult to watch. But this winter the team has reversed its recent history, with All-Big Ten sophomore guard Rachel Banham fueling an offense that leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.449) and is No. 2 in the conference in scoring (behind Penn State). Conversely, the Gophers are 11th in points allowed (66.1 per game) and opponent field-goal percentage (.400).

“We’ve always been able to be in games because we can defend teams,” Borton said. This team? Not so much.

“We’ve played 1-3-1, 2-3 zone, different things in our man-to-man,” she said. “We’ve tried trapping, full-court stuff — a lot of different things. But it’s just like it’s something different every time down the court.”

Borton is hopeful a corner was turned with excellent defensive performances in those road victories over Ohio State and Indiana.

“The team’s been up and down,” said Banham, who led the Big Ten in scoring. “We’ve had some really good wins, and some really bad losses. But every team goes through that. I think every day, every game, we’ve gotten better and learned. So overall, we’ve gone up.”

Big additions to come

That’s the direction Borton believes her program is headed. Despite losing out on Dahlman and Coffey, next year’s newcomers will include 6-5 redshirt Swedish center Amanda Zahui and two guards with size — Joanna Hedstrom of Minnetonka and Stabresa McDaniel from Texas — something the coach says her team needs to contend.

She also has four commitments for the 2014 class, led by New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s Carlie Wagner, a guard most rate on a par with Coffey and Dahlman. The Gophers also have commitments from a pair of Ohio centers and Benilde-St. Margaret’s point guard Grace Coughlin.

  • Big Ten women’s basketball tournament

    gophers women Big Ten basketball tournament

    First round: No. 8 Gophers vs. No. 9 Ohio State • 6 p.m. today • Hoffman Estates, Ill. • TV: BTN

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati 0 Delayed
Baltimore 0
Boston 7 Top 6th Inning
NY Yankees 3
Detroit 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Cleveland 2
NY Mets 8 Top 6th Inning
Miami 5
Philadelphia 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Atlanta 0
Toronto 5 Bottom 6th Inning
Tampa Bay 2
Milwaukee 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 4
LA Angels 0 Top 4th Inning
Houston 4
Chicago WSox 3 Bottom 3rd Inning
Minnesota 3
Texas 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Kansas City 1
Pittsburgh 2 Top 4th Inning
St. Louis 2
San Francisco 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Colorado 2
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
Washington - D. Fister 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw
Arizona - W. Miley 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Vikings win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close