7:00 PM ET, March 30, 2004
Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, VA
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) -- Alana Beard never envisioned her college career ending like this: Coming out of a game with 4.6 seconds left and walking into a sad embrace with coach Gail Goestenkors, tears flowing.The three-time All-American's last chance to win a national championship ended with another disappointment Tuesday night when Lindsay Whalen and Minnesota beat Duke 82-75 in the Mideast Regional final.
Minnesota is on a run and is a very confident team. And for good reason. They knocked off the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the Mideast Region to get to the Final Four. What has happened at Minnesota is one of the best stories in women's basketball ever. Here's a team made up mostly of Minnesota kids who believed in themselves despite the coaching turmoil that affected the program. The Twins Cities fans have responded, and the sport has "won over'' a whole new state. It's just a tremendous testament to these players, led by Minnesotan Lindsay Whalen. Back in mid-February after she broke her hand, I wrote that I hoped the "Human Superball'' bounced back as quickly as possible. Has she ever. And you could say the injury benefited the Gophers, because her teammates had to take on extra responsibility and learn things about themselves during the seven games she was out. But, obviously, the player of the tournament for Minnesota has been Janel McCarville. And if she's not handcuffed by the officiating in New Orleans, she will be a handful for Connecticut. Of course, the Huskies are the Huskies. They know what they're doing. The game against Minnesota probably will be decided on how well UConn defends; the Huskies shut down another Big Ten team, Penn State, in the regional final.