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No. 6/6 Minnesota, the only undefeated team in collegiate women's basketball, improved to 15-0 with a 74-59 victory over Illinois in Williams Arena on Thursday. The Golden Gophers are 4-0 in Big Ten play.
Junior J anel McCarville paced the Gophers with 15 points and 11 rebounds, her conference-leading seventh double-double of the season. She was one of four Gophers in double figures as L indsay Whalen added 12, K adidja Andersson 11 and J amie Broback 10.
Offensive balance and rebounding dominance spurred Minnesota to a 40-20 halftime lead. Six Gophers put points on the board before Whalen, now only 33 points from becoming Minnesota's all-time leading scorer, tallied her first bucket at the 6:08 mark of the first half but the Gophers had already built a 26-14 lead. By halftime, all eight Gophers who played had scored, six of them had five or more points.
"I was pleasantly surprised (on the even scoring by Minnesota)," said Golden Gopher head coach Pam Borton. "It makes us a tough team to defend. We don't have to just rely on Janel and Lindsay."
The Gophers gathered in 14 of the game's first 17 rebound opportunities and owned a 27-14 advantage at halftime. McCarville grabbed nine first-half boards, including six on the offensive end.
"Rebounding was the difference in the game, particularly in the first half," said Illinois head coach Theresa Grentz. "We talked during halftime about what changes needed to be made."
Illinois (7-9, 1-4) made adjustments not only in its rebounding but its offense. The Blue and Orange shot a blistering 59.3 percent in the second half but could only trade baskets with the Gophers. With both Whalen and McCarville on the bench with foul trouble, Illinois chipped the Minnesota lead down to 13 points at 63-50 with six minutes left. The Gophers answered the run with a 7-0 burst of their own, including fast-break layups by Whalen and S hannon Schonrock.
The three Minnesota freshmen combined for 24 points off the bench for the Gophers. In addition to Broback's 10 points, the Gophers received seven points and five rebounds from K elly Roysland and seven points and two steals from L iz Podominick.
Minnesota faces two huge road games in the next week, traveling to Purdue on Sunday and to Penn State on Thursday, Jan. 22.
Minnesota 74, Illinois 59
January 15, 2004
Minnesota Head Coach Pam Borton
"I told the team that we can't be riding Janel [McCarville's] and Lindsay [Whalen's] backs all year. Kadidja [Andersson] really played well tonight and the freshmen combined for 24 points. I was very pleased with the others stepping up. This is what's going to make us a better team, how they played tonight."
"I was pleasantly surprised [on the even scoring by Minnesota]. It makes us a tought team to defend. We don't have to just rely on Janel and Lindsay."
On Minnesota out-rebounding Illinois.
"It was good. It's something we've been emphasizing. I think we've let up in that area during the last five or six games. Illinois is the best rebounding team in the Big Ten, getting 15 offensive rebounds a game. I was very pleased with the effort tonight."
On the team building confidence for the upcoming games.
"I think a game like this really does help build confidence in each other. It also helps the freshmen gain confidence. It tells that teams that we're playing that they have to guard people other than Lindsay and Janel."
On the upcoming schedule.
"We have a big test ahead playing Purdue and Penn State on the road and the Michigan State here. The only thing that could make it harder is if we played Michigan State there. We just have to take it one game at a time. Purdue is going to be physical, in front of a sold out crowd that isn't full of our fans. I think it's going to come down to a few possessions that will make the difference in the game."
Minnesota Center J anel McCarville
"I didn't play up to my potential, but any win is going to give us momentum. We're going to ride what we've been taking. Against Penn State and Purdue, we're going to go out with momemtum."
Minnesota Forward K adidja Andersson
"I felt the team losing energy. I felt the responsibility to get the energy going. We've talked about not depending on just Lindsay and Janel. Others need to step up. We did that today."
On Minnesota's rebounding effort.
"We talked about rebounding in this game; it was something that coach stressed a lot. They're a good rebounding team and we needed to box out. It's something we've been losing a little bit, our rebounding momentum. We talked about it a lot and it helped get us going."
Minnesota Guard L indsay Whalen
"For the last two weeks, we've said that in order for us to be a great team we have a lot of people stepping up and scoring. Give credit to the team, they stepped up and took good shots. [Shannon] Bolden, Kelly [Roysland] and Kadidja [Andersson] - everyone got open looks and we were able to even out the team scoring."
Illinois Head Coach Theresa Grentz
"Rebounding was the difference in the game, particularly in the first half. We talked during halftime about what changes needed to be made. I think my team is hurting from the loss of their teammate (Illinois senior forward Aminata Yanni, out with an ACL injury) and we talked about that situation during the half and I think that they came out and responded very well. I do not want to take anything away from Minnesota, they played a great game, but my focus is on my team and the strides that we need to take to be competitive in the rest of the season."
On Illinois' game strategy.
"Minnesota played with confidence and we did not come in here thinking that we could hold-down one player, for example L indsay Whalen. A team like Minnesota has depth and I enjoy watching them play. I admire a talented ball-club and Minnesota ranks among one of them. Yes I want my team to win, but my job right now is to teach this group of young women and to get them to where we want to be come March.