Minnesota women oust Duke, 82-75

Gophers hinder Beard, advance to 1st Final Four

March 31, 2004|By Jennifer L. Williams | Jennifer L. Williams,DAILY PRESS

NORFOLK, Va. - Minnesota kept hanging around, and the longer the Gophers saw that they could play with Duke, the more dominating they became.

All-Americans Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville carried seventh-seeded Minnesota to an 82-75 shocker over top-seeded Duke in last night's NCAA women's Mideast Regional final at the Constant Center.

The Gophers (25-8) will travel to New Orleans for the school's first women's Final Four, a national semifinal Sunday against Connecticut (29-4).

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Duke coach Gail Goestenkors took All-American senior Alana Beard out of the game to a standing ovation. Goestenkors embraced the sobbing Beard, while assistant coach LaVonda Wagner clutched the team's other two crying seniors, Iciss Tillis and Vicki Krapohl.

"You guys don't understand how it feels to go out there every single year and think you're going to win the national championship and it doesn't go your way," Tillis said. "It hurts and it's really painful, especially when you really love the game and it means a lot."

The senior-led Blue Devils, ranked No. 1 in the regular season's final Associated Press poll, were going for their third consecutive Final Four trip and first national championship.

"Coach always talks about how we have to act like we've been there before and show a lot of class," McCarville said. "Well, we ain't never been there before, and so we finally got to show how we felt. We had a great time with it."

To get there, McCarville went right at every post player Duke threw at her. She was fearless around the basket, passing and shooting over and around anyone in her path.

Whalen, chosen the regional's Most Valuable Player, complemented McCarville in the open court, running the court and driving or pulling up for an eventual 27 points. McCarville finished with 20 points, 18 rebounds and six assists.

"They did a great job with their pressure on defense and obviously a tremendous job on the boards," Goestenkors said. "Every time we'd make a run or hit a shot, they'd come back and hit a huge three. I thought they made huge plays to keep us at bay and never really let us get the momentum we needed."

Coming out of halftime, Minnesota built a 10-point lead, and they led by eight just before the 10-minute mark. The Gophers, unrattled by the unfolding scenario, answered every Duke basket or mini-run.

"You can't really put into words the emotions, what's going through our minds or our bodies after this career that we've had," Beard said.

Duke could not rally late. With the Blue Devils trailing 75-70, Beard missed a three-point try with 28 seconds left. When McCarville hit two free throws to bump the lead to seven, Minnesota became the third-lowest seed to reach a women's Final Four.

"You could just look into Lindsay's eyes during the last few timeouts, really our whole team's, and you could tell she wouldn't let our team lose," Minnesota coach Pam Borton said.

The Daily Press of Newport News, Va., is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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