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.

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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

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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

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 0 1st Qtr 5:45
San Francisco 0
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 2nd Prd
Nashville 0
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 51 2nd Half 3:31
North Carolina 74
Long Beach State 13 1st Half 10:48
Western Mich 9
Marquette 0 1st Half 19:28
Georgia Tech 2
Stephen F Austin 8:00 PM
Prairie View
UAB 8:30 PM
Florida
Rice 8:30 PM
Mercer
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
LSU 7 2nd Qtr 1:20
Texas A&M 7
(6) TCU 13 2nd Qtr 4:54
Texas 3
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 16 1st Half 3:37
Richmond 21
Oklahoma 11 1st Half 12:02
South Florida 15
Princeton 11 1st Half 12:30
Wake Forest 5
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm

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