Nine years after their improbale run as a seven seed to the Final Four, former Minnesota Golden Gophers Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville celebrated the WNBA championship Thursday night in Georgia, after the Minnesota Lynx completed a dominant three-game sweep of the Atlanta Dream.
While the Olympic gold medalist Whalen was the point guard of the 2011 Lynx championship team, this was the first for McCarville.
“She was unbelievable tonight,” Whalen said of McCarville’s10-point performance. “I really thought she set the tone for us tonight at the start. I think she had six of the first eight point, hit a rainbow jumper early that was at the end of the shot clock, and I just thought she was unbelievable.”
After sitting out the two previous WNBA seasons, although still playing in Italy and Turkey, the Lynx acquired McCarville from the New York Liberty to replace the retired Taj McWilliams-Franklin at center. She had been Charlotte’s No. 1 overall choice in the 2005 draft and averaged 13.7 points for the Liberty in 2008.
“When it was down to possibly getting Janel this offseason, these are some of the nights I had envisioned,” Whalen said. “Her, the chemistry with the team, knowing how good of an off-the-ball partner Maya (Moore) is, how good of a shooter Seimone (Augustus) is, (Rebekkah) Brunson rebounding, myself driving. I just felt like she would fit in with the team well.
“I think her commitment to everything this season, just being a teammate, being a great player, really showed tonight. You know she’s having so much fun. That’s how she’s always played, that’s how she grew up in Wisconsin playing, and just being her teammate in college, then coming to the WNBA this season, having this be her first championship with us is just really special.”
As a post player, McCarville trailed only Whalen on the team with three assists per game in the playoffs, and made some between the legs passes for the highlight reel Thursday.
“She’s ridiculous,” Maya Moore added on McCarville’s passing ability.
Whalen and McCarville put the University of Minnesota on the map. The 2002 team under Brenda Frese turned a 8-20 team into a 22-8 one that made its first NCAA tournament since 1994. The encore was the school’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 2003, and the run to New Orleans in 2004 that ended to Diana Taurasi and Connecticut, as McCarville grabbed a tourney-record 75 boards. The following season, with Whalen playing for the Connecticut Sun, second-team All-American McCarville brought Pam Borton’s Gophers back to the regional semifinals, where they fell to eventual champion Baylor.