MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Without Janel McCarville this season,
Minnesota is searching for people to emerge as reliable players in
Sophomore Natasha Williams answered that question on Saturday.
Williams had 26 points and five blocks in her first career start
to spark Minnesota (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today; No. 16 AP) after a sluggish start, and the Gophers
beat San Francisco 80-62 in the Subway Classic.
With forward Jamie Broback, the team's leading returning scorer
and rebounder, on the bench and out of uniform, Williams moved into
the lineup and gave the Gophers (1-0) plenty of production against
She shot 11-for-13, and after starting in two exhibition
contests is growing comfortable with the college game after playing
sparingly as a freshman.
"It's helping me with different situations," Williams said.
"I didn't know what to expect this year, so it's really helped me
to get out there and move around and see things that I probably
wouldn't have saw last year."
Minnesota will face Stanford (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today; No. 11 AP) on Sunday in the
championship game of this mini-tournament. San Francisco will play
in the consolation game against Long Island, which lost to the
Cardinal 69-28 earlier at Williams Arena.
The Gophers trailed 29-28 with 4½ minutes left in the first half
until Shannon Schonrock, who finished with 11 points, sank a
The Dons, who have only two seniors and were led by Nickie
Warren's 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting, pulled within 51-47 with
13:45 remaining in the second half on Danae Wellander's layup. But
Williams, who played sparingly as a freshman, scored 12 points
during a 17-2 spurt in an 8-minute span to seal it.
"Obviously their inside game hurt us," said San Francisco
coach Mary Hile-Nepfel, whose team finished sixth in the West Coast
Conference last season and went 12-16 overall. "They got a lot of
easy looks inside, and we just had a hard time defending that.
"With their size and with their depth, they just wore us
Broback took a weeklong leave of absence at the behest of coach
Pam Borton, who reinstated the 6-foot-3 junior on Tuesday but
didn't allow her to play this weekend. That left Williams, junior
starter Liz Podominick and sophomore backup Lauren Lacey to pick up
the slack underneath, and they did their share.
Podominick, who came off the bench last season, played tough
defense and had six points and six rebounds. Lacey, who also saw
little playing time as a freshman, scored 12 points and grabbed
five rebounds. It was a promising performance for the Gophers, who
are trying to replace the second team All-American center
McCarville, who was the top pick in the WNBA draft in April.
Minnesota outrebounded San Francisco 39-23.
"Yes, we need more from them, but the best is yet to come,"
Point guard April Calhoun, who has been bothered by a foot
injury, scored four points in 11 minutes as Borton experimented
with several five-player combinations on the court. The Gophers are
still trying to find their identity in the post-McCarville and
Lindsay Whalen era.
"Right now," Borton said, "it's just kind of a work in
But consider this a good start, particularly for Williams. She
was playing so well, a jumper she took with 51 seconds from the
free-throw line banked in.
"That's something that I've been working on," Williams said,
referring to her jump shot. "So it was a good thing for me to
actually shoot the ball from that range and make it."