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Gophers face major challenge

Win over Tulane gives Minnesota shot at Stanford

Knight Ridder newspapers

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Shannon Schonrock appears to have the right attitude. The spunky freshman guard for the University of Minnesota women's basketball team might have set a spirited tone for tonight's second-round matchup against Stanford in the NCAA tournament.

After watching Stanford's 82-66 victory over Western Michigan late Saturday night at Maples Pavilion, Schonrock didn't want her teammates to feel overwhelmed with the prospects of playing the No. 3 seed in the West Regional on its home floor.

"They're not flawless," Schonrock said of ninth-ranked Stanford. "They're beatable. We're not scared to play them. We could take advantage of some things."

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The 17th-ranked Gophers (24-5) need to be in a positive mood. Stanford (27-4), participating in its 16th consecutive NCAA women's tournament, can throw some impressive numbers at the Gophers.

The Cardinal are 15-0 at Maples Pavilion this season, 19-2 at home in NCAA tournament games and 9-1 at home in NCAA tournament games since 1995. They have won 26 consecutive games at home. Their last home loss: Dec. 16, 2001.

Perhaps a more challenging task for the Gophers is a quick upgrade in performance. The Gophers used a dominant second half to beat Tulane 68-48 Saturday night, but coach Pam Borton had enough items on her checklist to downplay the easy win. The Gophers committed 20 turnovers and gave up 12 offensive rebounds, most of them in a sluggish first half. A repeat of the problems tonight could lead to the end of their respectable season.

"We need to do a much better job of taking care of the ball and play more team defense," Borton said. "We had a good prep session today (Sunday) and I feel we're ready."

The Gophers, the No. 6 seed in the West Regional, find themselves in the same situation as last year. As the fifth seed in the Midwest Regional, they were sent to the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Gophers cruised to an easy victory over Nevada-Las Vegas in the first round, then lost to host North Carolina by three on its home floor.

With the entire starting lineup back, plus a deeper bench, the Gophers believe they are in a better position to overcome the odds of a partisan crowd and highly-ranked team.

"We'll notice the homecourt advantage for Stanford, but we'll have to fight through it,'' Gophers forward Kadidja Andersson said. "We're a much different team than we were last year.''

Stanford can make a similar claim. Only six Stanford players are still on the roster from the team that pounded the Gophers 96-65 in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Hawaii on Nov. 23, 2001. These players include shooting guard Kelley Suminski and versatile forward Nicole Powell.

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Powell and Gophers All-American guard Lindsay Whalen are drawing the most attention from Borton and Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer in pregame preparation. Powell missed a triple-double Saturday night by two assists. She finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Whalen bounced back from a scoreless first half to lead the Gophers with 18 points.

VanDerveer had her guards spend extra time watching film Sunday to help them defend Whalen.

"Obviously, the key to Minnesota's team is Whalen,'' VanDerveer said. "She's a tremendous player. We've played against some great perimeter player this season, and hopefully that will help us defend her. We'll have to do that very well.''

Stanford forward Azella Perryman, one of six Cardinal players to score in double figures Saturday night, might have had a subtle message for the Gophers in response to Schonrock. As if to remind the Gophers, the Cardinal will host the West Regional finals if they win tonight.

"The road to the Final Four goes through Stanford,'' Perryman said.

The Gophers hope to avoid a road block tonight.

MINNESOTA 68, TULANE 48

TULANE (19-10)

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Wilson 2-8 0-0 4, Slaughter 2-3 2-2 6, McKiver 4-10 0-0 9, Nadeau 4-8 0-0 11, Joseph 2-11 0-0 4, Haris 0-3 0-0 0, Henry 1-3 0-0 2, Moore 2-4 0-0 4, Hampton 4-4 0-2 8, Themann 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-55 2-4 48.

MINNESOTA (24-5)

McCarville 4-6 1-2 9, Andersson 5-6 0-0 10, Schonrock 4-7 2-3 12, Whalen 6-13 3-5 18, Von Wald 1-4 6-6 8, Prince 3-4 0-1 6, Hill 1-3 0-0 2, Lieser 0-0 0-0 0, Bolden 0-0 0-0 0, Gilbert 1-3 1-1 3, Collison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-46 13-18 68.

Halftime--Tulane 28-27.

3-Point goals--Tulane 4-14 (Nadeau 3-5, McKiver 1-1, Themann 0-1, Haris 0-3, Joseph 0-4), Minnesota 5-11 (Whalen 3-6, Schonrock 2-3, Von Wald 0-2). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Tulane 28 (Hampton 8), Minnesota 31 (McCarville 7). Assists--Tulane 14 (Joseph 5), Minnesota 15 (Whalen, Von Wald 6). Total fouls--Tulane 17, Minnesota 10. A--NA.

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