Game 1: Gophers Host Eastern Illinois (12/2/20)

Ignatius L Hoops

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Familiar Faces

Eastern Illinois University, located in Charleston, Illinois, is known among Viking fans as the alma mater of former head coach, Brad Childress. Well…It’s maybe not that well known; but the school’s notable alumni do have a football bent. In addition to Childress, Sean Peyton and Mike Shanahan graduated from EIU. Plus, Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo passed through EIU on their way to NFL fame. Even the singer/actor, Burl Ives, at one time EIU’s most renowned attendee, played football for a couple of seasons before departing to win an Oscar and leaving us with memorable versions of “Riders in the Sky” and “Holly Jolly Christmas”.

The EIU Panthers are coached by another face familiar to Twin Cities women’s basketball fans, Matt Bollant. The Winona native and Winona State grad has a 4-3 record versus Minnesota as head coach of UW Green Bay and of Illinois. He got off to a quick start against the Gophers. In 2010, his UWGB team won at Williams Arena 79-75. Then, after moving on to the Illini in 2012, he swept the Gophers in his first season. (Minnesota was one of the few teams flummoxed by his “Buzz” defense). Actually, the “Buzz” was usually credited to his Assistant Mike Divilbiss. The same Divilbiss who took the first fall when the lawsuit dropped at Illinois. Bollant was ushered out two years later after posting a 61-94 record in five seasons (2012-2017).

It was Bollant’s success with UW Green Bay that brought him to the attention of Illinois. In five seasons with the Phoenix (2007-12) he was 148-19. Following the fiasco in Champaign, EIU quickly hired him to replace Debbie Black and revive the Panthers. Although his three season record at EIU is 33-56 (19-35 in conference) things are looking up. Last season, the Panthers were 19-16 (12-6 in the Ohio Valley Conference good for a 4th place finish). This season the Panthers are projected 5th behind UT Martin, Belmont, Southeast Missouri and Tennessee Tech in the 12 team OVC.

BREAKING NEWS: Matt Bollant did not coach the Panther’s opening game versus UIC as he was out of the country finalizing an adoption. EIU was coached by Associate Head Coach Kyley Simmons whom Gopher fans may remember as a decent shooting guard for Bollant’s Illini team. Simmons played two years in Champaign after transferring from Missouri.

A Quick Look at the Panthers:

Leading the Panthers are last season’s top scorers; 5’8” senior guard Karle Pace (17.5 points/game) and 5’9” sophomore guard Lariah Washington (13.2 points/game). Both were named to the OVC pre-season first team. Washington played for St Cloud Apollo and captured the OVC Freshman of the Year Award last season in addition to being named to the All-conference first team. While Washington was not a good three point shooter (11-37) she led the Panthers in shooting percentage at .517 during conference play. Pace, on the other hand, was a terrific three point shooter 45-99 (.465).

The Panthers are an experienced team returning all five starters and their top seven scorers. They are a guard dominated team frequently starting four guards. More to the point, their tallest player is 6’1” Junior Abby Wahl. Wahl was the third leading scorer with 10.7 points/game. There are only two other players listed at 6’0”. I remember Bollant saying something like “you can never have too many point guards”. He may be putting that theory to the test. The Panthers average 68.8 points/game in OVC play while giving up 64.4 points. To this mix, EIU has added Briana Misler. She’s a transfer from IUPUI and is expected to add a three point threat. She launched back to back three attempts immediately on entering the opener against UIC. She made the second.

The Eastern Illinois Opener Versus UIC:

The Panthers led 23-16 at the end of the first quarter. The Flames kept it close by attacking the bucket. Even though EIU struggled to put down bunnies they maintained a 37-35 lead at the half.

The Flames grabbed a 43-40 lead early in the third quarter before St Cloud native Lariah Washington knocked down three straight treys. (Maybe she’s not a bad three point shooter). Anyway, at the end of three it was 61-55 EIU.

The Panthers took control in the fourth to win 82-71. Washington led the scoring with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Wahl contributed 16 points and 21 rebounds while Litwiller knocked down 16 points. EIU also committed 24 fouls which helped keep it close. It was a good first win for Kyley Simmons. Matt Bollant is expected back for the matchup with Minnesota.



Minnesota/EIU Series History:

It was twenty years ago today, 12/2/2000: Eastern Michigan defeated the Gophers 73-72 in Lawrence, Kansas in their only meeting.

From the Gopher sports game recap (no mention of Lindsay Whalen in the game story):

The Golden Gopher women's basketball team was the victim of a last-second shot for the second straight game, losing a 73-72 contest to Eastern Illinois in the Kansas Tournament in Lawrence on Saturday. Eastern Illinois' Lauren Dailey knocked down the game-winning jumper with five seconds remaining.

Minnesota (3-3) drove full court as time elapsed with a Tanisha Gilbert jumper from the free throw line bouncing off the rim as the buzzer sounded. The Gophers, who were held scoreless in the final two minutes of the game, also dropped a 64-62 decision on Friday to St. Joseoph's on a last-second shot at the horn


Probable Starters (Last Season’s OVC Stats):

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
6’1”F/CJrAbby Wahl28.710.74.7
5’8”GSrKarle Pace32.817.52.7
5’9”GSoLariah Washington30.913.25.1
5’8”GJrKira Arthofer29.13.52.7
5’11FSoMorgan Litwiller21.97.73.4


Bench (OVC Stats):

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
5’9”GSrTaylor Steele24.98.94.0
5’8”GJrJordan Hughes17.95.22.1
5’9”GRSoBriana Misler (IUPUI Transfer)
 

60's Guy

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Bollant's season win totals would seem to indicate the person responsible for the success on the court was Divilbiss.
 

BarnBall

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Looking forward to the start of the season. Go Gophers
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Bollant's season win totals would seem to indicate the person responsible for the success on the court was Divilbiss.
They certainly clicked at UWGB. At Illinois, I remember Divilbiss spending as much time coaching the defense from the bench as Bollant did coaching the offense. Like Bollant, Divilbiss also graduated from Winona State; although he graduated almost 15 years before Bollant.

Divilbiss was hired aa an assistant at UWGB after he resigned as head coach at Idaho following numerous player complaints and 25 transfers. One of the transfers was future WNBA star, Leilani Mitchell. Divilbiss is now a high school athletic director.
 

bball_craz_26

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Height doesn't seem like will be something gophers have to fight, at least in this game. 6'2 Sissoko and 6'2 Sconiers (who I assume will be the PF/C starters) should have the advantage.

Eastern Illinois was expected to play Northwestern this weekend but looking at the Eastern Illinois website, it appears to have been moved to the 10th, so their next game is the Gophers on Wednesday.
 

gopher572

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This article is the first mention that I have seen that the Gophers have applied for a waiver for Kayla Mershon to play this season.

 

whalenfan

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This article is the first mention that I have seen that the Gophers have applied for a waiver for Kayla Mershon to play this season.

So these 1st 2 games got alot more interesting. Should be able to take care of Eastern Illinois with 7 players but Drake is gonna be tough.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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From the STrib article:


Expected to start Wednesday are point guard Jasmine Powell and wings Gadiva Hubbard and Kadi Sissoko. Freshman Erin Hedman and either Grace Cumming or Klarke Sconiers will be in the post.

The only reserves are forward Justice Ross and either Cumming or Sconiers.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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As Whalen said, "there will be fatigue". Presumably, EIU will run, run, run.
 

bball_craz_26

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Guessing Starters will be Powell, Hubbard, Sissoko, Hedman and Sconiers. Mershon could get a waiver this week, even if its before Wed's game, Gophers have two guards for this game in Jazz and Diva. Those two will likely have to play close to 40 minutes. Maybe Sissoko could slide down or Ross can give two or three mins to give them a quick break.

Gophers despite having Diva, Sissoko and Hubbard who are quick, will likely want to slow down the pace to try and save their legs. If this is a close game in the 4th quarter, fatigue might bite them.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Eastern Illinois list the game as an 11 AM start while Minnesota lists it as 2 PM.

Gopher Sports game notes:

• Minnesota is 28-19 in season-opening games dating back to 1973- 74. The Gophers have won 10 of their past 11 season openers and 17 of their last 19 such games. The only losses in that span were to Stanford in 2008 and Missouri State last season. Minnesota is also 40-7 in home openers dating back to 1973-74 with wins in 19 of its last 20 homeopening contests.

• As a result of COVID-19, Minnesota will be playing its latest season opener since also beginning the 1976-77 campaign on Dec. 2. This comes just one year after playing the earliest season opener in program history (Nov. 5).

• Minnesota is coming off a 16-15 season (5-13 in Big Ten play) in which it reached the second round of the Big Ten Tournament in Lindsay Whalen's second season as head coach. The Gophers started the year 9-1, its fourth best 10-game start, while its 11-1 beginning was its fi fth best one-loss start.

• The Golden Gophers return four letterwinners from last season's squad, including three of their top fi ve scorers in sophomore Jasmine Powell (12.1, 2nd), senior Gadiva Hubbard (11.2, 4th) and sophomore Sara Scalia (10.8, 5th). All three earned All-Big Ten honors a year ago as Powell was a consensus pick for both All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, while Hubbard was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honoree by the media, as was Scalia, who also earned a place on the media's Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

• Three Gophers took redshirts last season but will now be eligible to play this year. Sophomore forward Kadi Sissoko sat out after transferring from Syracuse. A former fi ve-star recruit, she averaged 3.2 points,
 

gopher572

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Eastern Illinois list the game as an 11 AM start while Minnesota lists it as 2 PM.

Gopher Sports game notes:
It was originally listed as 11 when the Gophers first announced the schedule. I am assuming 2:00 is the new correct time.

And Coach Bollant is now dealing with his father in the ICU with Covid.
 

whalenfan

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Guessing Starters will be Powell, Hubbard, Sissoko, Hedman and Sconiers. Mershon could get a waiver this week, even if its before Wed's game, Gophers have two guards for this game in Jazz and Diva. Those two will likely have to play close to 40 minutes. Maybe Sissoko could slide down or Ross can give two or three mins to give them a quick break.

Gophers despite having Diva, Sissoko and Hubbard who are quick, will likely want to slow down the pace to try and save their legs. If this is a close game in the 4th quarter, fatigue might bite them.
Hopefully this game isnt close so no one has to play close to 40 minutes. Ross played some pg in high school so she has some versatility.
 

Katogopher

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Makes sense to put in for Mersin immediate eligibility due to the pandemic. Can never trust the NCAA on how they determine who’s eligible or not or even when they make the decision. It does sound like they’ve been granting eligibility for almost everyone this year.

Hoping coach Bollant’s pulls thru and has a quick recovery.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Corbu interviews Whalen. Lindsay looks forward to having an option to go with a quick lineup or a big lineup.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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EIU Panthers Preview:

SCOUTING THE GOLDEN GOPHERS:
This Minnesota team has plenty of talent on their squad. Three of their starters averaged over 10 points and were named to a 2020 honorable mention All-Big Ten team. The expectation is that the Golden Gophers will be starting three sophomores, a redshirt sophomore and a redshirt senior. The guard play under third-year coach Lindsay Whalen has been a problem for opponents with Jasmine Powell, Sara Scalia and Gadiva Hubbard all averaging double-digits. This will be a great opportunity to see what the Panthers can do defensively against prolific scoring guards. Coach Bollant could end up playing some of his freshman posts, as Minnesota has seven players that are at least 6 foot tall.

PLAYER TO WATCH:
After Wahl's DI leading 21 rebound game, Panther fans will be looking for her to repeat another exciting day for Eastern Illinois. Wahl battled with UIC down low through the entire game, and the team will need her to continue to battle against the much taller Golden Gophers. Wahl will need to continue to make plays defensively and pull the Gophers out of the paint with her midrange game. The team overall will need to be ready to go against Minnesota, and as we've seen from her two years prior, Wahl will be a big part of the Panthers success in tomorrow's game
 

Aesop70

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Guessing Starters will be Powell, Hubbard, Sissoko, Hedman and Sconiers. Mershon could get a waiver this week, even if its before Wed's game, Gophers have two guards for this game in Jazz and Diva. Those two will likely have to play close to 40 minutes. Maybe Sissoko could slide down or Ross can give two or three mins to give them a quick break.

Gophers despite having Diva, Sissoko and Hubbard who are quick, will likely want to slow down the pace to try and save their legs. If this is a close game in the 4th quarter, fatigue might bite them.
Why only two guards? Scalia isn't playing?
 

gopher572

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Why only two guards? Scalia isn't playing?
As reported in the Star Tribune article, the Gophers will only have 7 available players tomorrow. "Out, either by injury or illness are Sara Scalia, five-star freshman Alexia Smith, transfer post player Laura Bagwell-Katalinich and freshman guard Caroline Strande."
 

Frink

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Wow... 7 players. I don't know a thing about Eastern Illinois yet I'm worried. To be honest, with how insane things are who knows if the game will even happen.

Obviously, avoiding foul trouble will be more important than ever.
 

bball_craz_26

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Whalen does not sound happy about Mershon having to wait for the waiver. Maybe they get lucky and get her ok'd to play before 2 pm tomorrow.
 

thatjanelpick

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I know Scalia isn't playing today, and this is probably just because the season has been delayed so much that I'm overthinking, but does anyone else worry about how little we're hearing about her?
 

whalenfan

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Looks like Strande is warming up on this stream so they might have 8 available today or maybe shes hurt and not quite ready yet.
 
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