Gophers women's basketball vs. St. Louis game preview: WNIT championship game analysis


2 p.m., Saturday vs. St. Louis in WNIT championship game

Site: First Community Arena on Southern Illinois-Edwardsville campus

TV; radio: CBS Sports Network, 96.7-FM

Opening bell: The Gophers (20-15), who have won five of their last six, get a Billikens team that finished seventh in the 15-team Atlantic 10 Conference. This is the Gophers' first WNIT final. They won the 2012 WBI. This will also be the Gophers' third road game in five days. The Gophers and Billikens have two common opponents this year: Drake and Wisconsin. The Gophers beat Drake in overtime but lost twice to Wisconsin. St. Louis lost to Drake but beat Wisconsin 65-60 in the WNIT quarterfinals. The Badgers lost star post player Serah Williams to a knee injury in the first minute of that game. Still, St. Louis (21-18) has won 10 of its last 11 games.

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Watch her: Amaya Battle has averaged 20.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists in six postseason games, 17.0 points per game in the WNIT. Mallory Heyer has averaged 11.8 points and 9.0 assists in four WNIT games. Center Sophie Hart has scored in double figures in all four WNIT games and her first double-double as a Gopher at Troy. St. Louis senior forward Peyton Kennedy leads the team in scoring (16.9), shoots 49.6 percent and averages 5.3 rebounds per game. She has averaged 23.2 in the WNIT.

Forecast: The Billikens are a veteran team with two juniors, a senior and two grad students among their top six in minutes played. It will be a tough test for the Gophers, but they've finished their last three games well. Down three with 2:18 to play against North Dakota State, Minnesota finished the game 7-0, then 21-9 at Wyoming and 6-2 after a fourth-quarter lead had shrunk at Troy.