3:00 PM ET, February 26, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota coach Pam Borton hopes the Gophers' 71-33 win in the team's regular season and home finale is more of a beginning."Hopefully we can hang another banner to our gym for our seniors," Borton said. "We have three because of them."This senior class was recruited by Brenda Oldfield, now Brenda Frese, who left Minnesota for Maryand after one season. Under Borton, they helped the Gophers to a trip to the 2004 Final Four and two appearances in the Sweet 16."It's hard to actually think of it as our last game," said Shannon Schonrock, who extended her school record by making her 226th 3-point basket early on. "We still have a lot of basketball left."Schonrock played just 25 minutes but, like the other seniors, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 10,273 as they left the game one by one."It was more important how they left the game," said Borton. "Each one of them deserved a standing ovation."By the time Schonrock, Shannon Bolden, April Calhoun, Katie Alsdurf, Christian Collison and Hannah Garry were finished, the game was well in hand for the Gophers (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP). Minnesota (19-8, 11-5 Big Ten) burst to an 18-1 lead en route to handing Northwestern its sixth straight loss."It's always tough to play on anyone's senior day," said Wildcats coach Beth Combs. "We had high hopes coming into this game in being able to prepare us for the Big Ten tournament."Northwestern opens up the tournament on Thursday as the No. 10 seed, facing Penn State.Kelly Roysland scored 11 points and Calhoun added 10, while Minnesota's defense tied a school record of fewest points allowed in a game. One of the highlights was a baseline move for a basket and a follow-up free throw by Collison, who hadn't scored all season."I got a pep talk from my friend, Shannon Bolden," Collison said. "I wasn't going to, I was going to keep passing, because I like doing that. So I just went for it."The scores drew a wild ovation from the crowd, who were urging Collison to take a shot."I had to please the mob," she joked.The Gophers also allowed 33 points in a 64-33 win over St. Francis in the opening round of last year's NCAA Tournament. The 38-point winning margin was Minnesota's largest of the season.The Gophers, who lost to Michigan State in last year's Big Ten tournament final, have the No. 3 seed and a first-round bye and won't begin play until Friday's late game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.Northwestern (6-21, 2-14) missed its first nine shots from the field. After Julie Biekawski finally hit the Wildcats' first field goal at 11:08, the Gophers kept rolling.Liz Podominick's layup made it 25-6, and the Gophers cruised the rest of the way.Ifeoma Okonkwo had 12 points to lead the Wildcats, who scored their fewest points in a game this season. Their previous low came in a 60-46 loss at Indiana on Feb. 12.