Minnesota loses in sloppy 50-44 game

by Sarah Mitchell

The Northwestern women’s basketball team shot a woeful 30.8 percent from the floor Thursday.
Still, host Minnesota found a way to lose. The Gophers (7-10 overall, 1-6 Big Ten) fell 50-44, extending their losing streak to six games.
“A disappointing loss and I would say humiliating,” Gophers coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “It’s like a broken record right now.”
Neither team found its offensive touch. Minnesota shot 22.6 percent in the first half and showed little improvement in the second. Senior Erin Olson led the Gophers “attack” with 11 points.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats (6-10, 3-3) posted shooting numbers of 24 percent in the first and 37 percent in the second. But good defense can make up for bad offense.
“The one thing we’ve preached all year long was team defense. Defensively, we played very well,” Wildcats coach June Olkowski said. “I’m just happy defensively we showed up (Thursday) because it could have been a long day.”
Despite the lackluster numbers, the conference matchup turned out to be the neck-and-neck contest it was tagged to be.
Minnesota looked poised to head to the locker room at halftime with the lead after Gophers point guard Cassie VanderHeyden sunk a shot from just outside the arc to put Minnesota up 17-13 with less than two minutes remaining.
But with seconds remaining, Gophers forward Moneeke Bowden coughed the ball up to Wildcats forward Leslie Schock while driving to the basket, who passed it to teammate Emily Butler. Running through traffic, Butler beat the buzzer from the top of the key to give Northwestern an 18-17 lead.
The battle continued into the second half, with each offense gradually warming up. With just two minutes remaining, Northwestern earned a 42-41 lead.
Wildcats junior guard Dana Leonard sunk a three-pointer from the left corner. Northwestern then made three of its next four foul shots while Butler added a driving lay-up with 11 seconds left, giving the Wildcats all the scoring they would need.
“It doesn’t hurt anymore than the other ones we’ve lost,” Littlejohn said.
The Gophers look to reverse their fortunes on Sunday. Minnesota hosts Indiana-Purdue.
“There’s a lot of things that could happen between this one and the next one,” Gophers center Brandi Pickens said. “The question is are we going to get it together between this one and that one.”
ùAlready injury-ridden, the Gophers left Thursday’s game with two more question marks in VanderHeyden and senior guard Brandi Harris. VanderHeyden left late in the second half after hyperextending her left elbow. Harris was taken out after aggrivating her sprained left ankle an injury suffered earlier in the year.

Sarah Mitchell covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected].