MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's run to last year's Final Four was launched at home, and the Gophers are off to another good start in the NCAA Tournament with a win at Williams Arena -- after pushing around a skinnier opponent.
Jamie Broback had 17 points and three steals; Janel McCarville had 12 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks; and Minnesota muscled past St. Francis 64-33 on Saturday in the first round of the Tempe Regional.The third-seeded Gophers (25-7) get to stay in town for the second round, playing Monday against sixth-seeded Virginia.Minnesota had a huge home-court advantage, backed by a crowd of 11,312 clad mostly in maroon and gold. The site probably didn't matter, though, in this mismatch.The Gophers set a single-season school record by allowing just 55.6 points per game, and this was their lowest yield of the season. The Red Flash (21-10) start four seniors and rode a 14-game winning streak into the tournament, but they were simply outclassed."The first thing I'll do when we get back is I'll ask my athletic director for a bigger weight room," coach Jill Poe said. "We've been up and down the East Coast. We've played in the ACC, the SEC, the Big East. We have never seen a more physical game than we saw tonight, at both ends -- their guard play as well as their post play. Our kids just got worn out."St. Francis, a school of 2,000 students in the tiny western Pennsylvania town of Loretto, is no stranger to NCAA Tournament competition -- making its fourth straight appearance and ninth in 10 years. But no Northeast Conference team has ever won a tournament game, and neither has a No. 14 seed. The Red Flash have never come closer than 15 points, and their average margin of defeat is more than 36.Beth Swink, a 6-foot-2 senior who was third in the nation this season in scoring at nearly 23 points per game, had trouble finding open shots all night with the 6-foot-4 McCarville hounding her."We had great defensive effort," McCarville said. "We were all on the same page for the most part. As for guarding the post, we wanted to limit her touches. Make every shot she had hard ones and force her away from the basket and don't let her get too close."Swink scored seven points on 3-for-17 shooting."I would call it frustrating," Swink said. "McCarville is a very strong player. I shouldn't let it get to me like it did. I was just having a rough game like everybody has."Christin Black led St. Francis with 13 points.McCarville, who shot 1-for-17 and scored just two points in her last game, a 55-49 loss to Michigan State in Big Ten tournament championship, bounced back with an efficient all-around effort.The Gophers' leader in all five major statistical categories, McCarville didn't dominate. She made a sizable impact, though, and provided a memorable highlight when she saved a ball from going out of bounds on the defensive end, curled it behind her back and fed streaking teammate Shannon Bolden for an uncontested layup in the first half.Last year, the Gophers were seeded seventh and beat No. 2 seed Kansas State in the second round. Two wins later, over Boston College and Duke, and Minnesota was in the Final Four for the first time in program history. This time, the Gophers are hoping to do the same. Minnesota is 7-0 following its losses this year with an average winning margin of more than 27.The Red Flash were competitive early, keeping the deficit in single digits during the first half. But a 12-2 run by the Gophers to start the second half broke the game open. With Minnesota leading by 11, Regina Schlichter pulled Broback to the floor under the basket -- drawing an intentional foul.Broback made both free throws, the Gophers kept the ball and McCarville sank a baseline jumper to make it 34-19. Broback and McCarville accounted for all the scoring on the spurt with six points apiece.