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With McCarville, Minnesota's getting plenty from the post
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In four games, the 6-foot-2 junior is averaging 19.8 points, 17 rebounds and 4.8 assists. In the regional semifinal victory over Boston College, McCarville had seven blocks and four steals. (

New Orleans, La. — (AP) Janel McCarville has become one of the best post players in country, and Minnesota probably wouldn't be headed to the Final Four without her huge contributions in the NCAA tournament.

"The way she's playing right now, nobody can stop her," teammate Shannon Schonrock said. The attitude adjustment McCarville made at the beginning of last season has been a major factor in her success, as well as Minnesota's.

"It took her a few months," coach Pam Borton said. "But she finally bought in to what we were trying to do with her."

Minnesota (25-8), which plays two-time defending champion Connecticut in the national semifinals Sunday night in New Orleans, was given a No. 7 seed after a late-season slump caused mostly by the absence of star guard Lindsay Whalen.

One the tournament began, the Gophers beat the top three seeds in the Mideast Region - Duke, Kansas State and Boston College. That's mainly because Whalen is back in form after a broken hand, but McCarville's performance has been just as critical.

In four games, the 6-foot-2 junior is averaging 19.8 points, 17 rebounds and 4.8 assists. In the regional semifinal victory over Boston College, McCarville had seven blocks and four steals.

"She's unbelievable," Whalen said. "We always knew she had it. She would dominate in practice all the time. Now she's taken it to the national level."

McCarville, from Stevens Point, Wis., was the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year in 2001-02 under Brenda Oldfield, who's now coaching at Maryland under her maiden name, Frese.

When Borton was hired as Minnesota's next coach, she immediately began challenging McCarville - to improve her defense, to become more of a power player than just finesse and flash and to be more committed to conditioning.

The admittedly stubborn McCarville met Borton's edict with skepticism.

"Why do I need to change? Why do I need to do anything different, because I was already successful," Borton said, summarizing McCarville's reaction. "Well, you've got to take that next step as a player, and I think that's what we were trying to get her to do."

McCarville, also affected last season by a hip pointer, would often call home to complain. It was her mother, Bonnie, who helped set her straight.

"She brought me back down," McCarville recalled. "Moms know best."

Bonnie was diagnosed with colon cancer in August, and the bond with her daughter has since grown. Janel has a small tattoo of her mother's initials - "BDM" - on the inside of her left forearm.

The whole family is headed to New Orleans this weekend.

"This is as good treatment for her as any," McCarville said. "She's always sitting up there in the stands with a smile on her face. Well, maybe not in close games. She's probably biting her nails."

McCarville showed up this fall considerably lighter and in much better shape. Having a solid season until Whalen got hurt, McCarville found the absence of the Gophers' senior leader difficult for a few games.

It took another deep discussion with the head coach to set things straight.

"I just felt like there was a lot on me," McCarville said. "I felt like everybody needed me to step up."

She has, indeed, and Minnesota is a dangerous team now that Whalen has returned.

"If people were surprised, they haven't seen me before," McCarville said.

No, McCarville has never been short on confidence - or personality.

Her teammates call her "Shaq," and on Thursday someone asked if her recent rebounding prowess should suggest a nickname more along the lines of a different NBA great - like Charles Barkley. "I'm making a name for myself, pretty much," she said with a smile. "I want to rebound like Janel."

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