Bufford scores 1,000th point in fourth-straight loss

The Gophers gave up another second half lead and dropped their fourth straight at Northwestern, despite Kiara Buford reaching 1,000 points in her career.

by Jesse Mandell-McClinton

The only thing thatâÄôs been consistent about the womenâÄôs basketball team recently is that wins and losses are likely to come in bunches.

After a hard-fought loss at home against Purdue on Thursday night, the Gophers gave up another second half lead and dropped their fourth straight at Northwestern, despite Kiara Buford reaching 1,000 points in her career.

The pair of losses drops Minnesota to 11-16 overall, a mark that, barring an inspired conference tournament run, ensures the Gophers a second consecutive season below .500.

Head coach Pam Borton characterized the recent strings of losses as âÄúdisappointing and disheartening,âÄù two descriptors that could readily apply to the Gophers season as a whole.

Now 3-11 in the Big Ten, the Gophers have lost 26 of their past 35 conference games and are in danger of finishing in last place for the second consecutive year.

Still, there were some individual milestones this weekend despite the zero in the win column. On Thursday night, Brianna Mastey scored a career-high 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. It was a high point for the Gophers that night, as they struggled throughout the game with their energy level against a Purdue team that had lost its last four on the road.

The Gophers were able to hang around for most of the game, but couldnâÄôt hold a lead throughout the game and ended up playing from behind. Against Purdue, a team ranked seventh in the nation in free throw percentage, late fouls did not help close the gap, and Minnesota saw its deficit swell to 10 by the end of the game as the visitors took it 60-50.

The BoilermakersâÄô Brittany Rayburn scored 27 points, a Big Ten season high for her, to go along with five rebounds. Drey Mingo, a redshirt junior whoâÄôs in her first full year playing for Purdue, put together a double-double with 10 points and 12 boards.

In MinnesotaâÄôs Sunday game, Buford become the 20th Gophers player to reach 1,000 career points with 15 against Northwestern. Minnesota had come from behind to defeat the Wildcats 63-58 for its first Big Ten win earlier this season, but this time it was Northwestern overcoming a 43-37 hole to hand the Gophers their third straight loss in Evanston.

Star center Amy Jaeschke scored 21 points for the Wildcats, and sophomore Kendall Hackney added 20 of her own to account for nearly two-thirds of the teamâÄôs offense.

Senior guard China Antoine again struggled from the floor, scoring just 3 points after going 1-for-7 from the field. Antoine has shot 1-for-20 over her last three games, and Borton expressed concern over her backcourtâÄôs productivity after the loss to Purdue.

Minnesota may be able to turn its luck around this Thursday against Michigan, the only Big Ten team the Gophers have beaten by double digits (60-50 on Jan. 20) in more than a year.

Minnesota hasnâÄôt been failing in every facet of the game, as it lost the rebounding battle for the first time in seven games against Northwestern. However, trends like hitting 40 percent from the field just once in its past four games arenâÄôt going to take the team far, and the Gophers need to become more efficient from the floor if they wish to make a push in the Big Ten tournament, now less than two weeks away.