BY MIKE PEDEN
The 2,709 who attended Thursday night's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game between Minnesota and Virginia Tech at Williams Arena got a taste of the chilly Twin Cities weather inside.
The Gophers were cold from the floor compared to the previous games, making just 41% of their field goals, less than their average of 48%. However, fans would never know it watching junior guard Kiara Buford, who scored a career-high 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Her cool demeanor in a tight game helped the Gophers beat Virginia Tech 63-58. Buford's previous career high was 24.
Buford's timing proved vital for Minnesota (5-3, 0-0), as no other Gopher finished in double-figures with Virginia Tech's (4-3, 0-0) zone defense stumping Minnesota until late in the second half.
"Kiara did a lot to create her own shots," said Minnesota head coach Pam Borton. "She does a great job making plays within our system. We've got to get more people to do that."
"I got a little excited in the beginning because I thought I was open," Buford said. "When we move the ball around and if I can keep my dribble, I can find seams."
Minnesota built a 23-6 lead midway through the first half as Virginia Tech was unable to put virtually any shot down, but the Hokies found their stroke to close the half with an 18-7 run. Their zone defense and offensive penetration, coupled with sloppy Minnesota turnovers late in the second, kept the result in doubt through the final minute. With the score at 61-58, Buford iced the game with two free throws after drawing a Virginia Tech foul.
While Borton was disappointed with her team giving up 32 points in the paint to Virginia Tech, the Hokies' inside game was somewhat muted, making just 50% of their short-range shots.
"We did a great job of finding a way to win," Borton said. "If you put us in this situation last year, we would have lost. I'm happy that we're disappointed with a win, because that shows us that we have higher expectations for our team."
Although Virginia Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger was unable to take in the happiness of a victory, she was pleased with the Hokies closing a 17-point deficit to 1 early in the second without their top scorer, Shanel Harrison. Sophomore Aerial Wilson led Virginia Tech with 14 points off the bench and sophomore guard Alyssa Fenyn added 12.
"We've got some reserves that are coming in finding a way to step up and score when we're short personnel-wise. I'm encouraged by the gut and determination this team showed," Dunkenberger said.
Minnesota will seek to polish their skill for their toughest road game this season, when they visit #2 Baylor for the inaugural Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge before returning home next Thursday against Southern.
Programs available for DVD purchase
Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)
What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15
From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15
Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15
Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15