Women’s basketball takes road-trip sweep

by Mark Heller

If this continues, “bizarre” might not be strong enough terminology to summarize the Gophers women’s basketball team and its nonconference season.
After finishing two of the worst weeks in the Cheryl Littlejohn era, Minnesota has rediscovered winning.
It comes from within.
Sophomore Cassie VanderHeyden, who replaced injured point guard Anotoinetta Blevins, tied a career high with six three-pointers Sunday. Freshman Lindsay Lieser hit all five of her field goals from behind the arc and the Gophers hit a school-record 14 treys in a 66-56 win at Troy State on Sunday.
After a 61-46 win Friday night in Alabama, Minnesota (5-4) has won three in a row. The Gophers haven’t won three straight since January 1995.
With the events of the past two weeks — injuries and players quitting — the team seems to be on a mission.
“We knew what we had to do,” VanderHeyden said. “We played as hard as we can. We’re playing like it’s our last game because it could be. We don’t know.”
Senior co-captain Erin Olson hit three from downtown, and finished with 19 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. Minnesota out-rebounded a short-handed Troy State team 50-29. The Trojans dressed only seven players.
Olson’s 11 assists were the most by a Gopher in almost six years.
“This is my senior year and I’m a co-captain,” Olson said. “Now my role has changed, where I need to score and create more for teammates. It’s easy to step up when people are playing well around you.”
Senior Moneeke Bowden added 11 rebounds, and sophomore center Kim Bell had six rebounds and five blocks off the bench.
Bowden’s more impressive night came Friday against South Alabama. She led the Gophers with 17 points and 16 rebounds — the most since Angie Iverson had 18 rebounds two years ago.
“Having her in there helps open up the outside for us,” Olson said. “Her movement and activity are key for us. She is going to be tough for anyone to take care of.”
Up 31-29 at halftime, Minnesota outscored the Jaguars 30-17, aided by South Alabama’s 30 percent shooting in the second half. As is the case most times they win, the Gophers out-rebounded the Jaguars 45-35.
Suddenly-surging Minnesota will host St. Louis University Wednesday night.
“It started last Wednesday with a home win (against Ohio University),” Littlejohn said. “Then we came down here and I stressed not to be satisfied with one win.”

Mark Heller covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]