– All Shae Kelley wanted to do was play in the NCAA tournament before her college basketball career ended. Though the Gophers senior got her wish, she wanted it to last a little bit longer.

The forward slumped in a chair behind a curtain in the Gophers’ locker room Friday night, after they squandered a 15-point second-half lead and lost 79-72 to DePaul in their NCAA tournament opener. Kelley scored 17 points and had eight rebounds in her final college game. It was the 28th double-digit performance of a career that carried her from Colorado to Florida to Virginia to Minnesota.

Kelley transferred to the U from Old Dominion for her final season of eligibility and was a major factor in the Gophers’ march back to the tournament after a five-year absence. She started all 33 games and was the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder with 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that we set goals at the beginning of the season, and even though Rachel [Banham] went out, we never changed those goals,” Kelley said. “Even through adversity, we were still able to accomplish the things we wanted.

“We said we were going to make the NCAA tournament, and that’s what we did. Even though it was my first and last time [in the tournament], I’m proud to be part of a team that fought so hard all year.”

More for Zahui B.

Before Friday’s game, Gophers sophomore center Amanda Zahui B. was named one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, given to the top player in women’s college basketball. Zahui led the Gophers with 21 points in Friday’s loss and added a game-high 22 rebounds, the most ever by a Gophers player in an NCAA tournament game.

The double-double was the 42nd of Zahui’s two-year career, third-most in program history. She also tied a career high with five assists Friday. Zahui’s 14 defensive rebounds were only three fewer than the entire DePaul team.

Though Zahui was named the Big Ten player of the year by the media — and was called “the best big kid in America” by DePaul coach Doug Bruno — she said she still has much to work on.

“I ran the floor better, and I scored more, but there’s still a lot to get better,” Zahui said. “I’m still far away from where I want to be, because I want to become the best. I’m very happy after this season, and I’m proud of myself, but I have more goals.”

Zahui is the third Gophers player to be named a Naismith Award finalist, joining Lindsay Whalen (2003 and 2004) and Janel McCarville (2005). The other finalists are Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart, Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd and South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell. The winner will be announced on April 7.


• DePaul senior guard Brittany Hrynko had six assists Friday, setting a program record with 676 for her career.

• Former Richfield High School star Jessica January, a sophomore guard and starter for the Blue Demons, had five assists and four rebounds but scored only two points.

• The Gophers are 11-9 in NCAA tournament games.