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Gophers fall on the road to Cornhuskers

Minnesota was outscored by 20 points in the second half of the game.
Gophers forward Shae Kelley looks to pass the ball at Williams Arena on Thursday.
Image by Alex Tuthill-Preus
Gophers forward Shae Kelley looks to pass the ball at Williams Arena on Thursday.

Head coach Marlene Stollings walked along Minnesota’s bench before Tuesday’s game, calling for energy and giving each player a high-five.

But the Gophers didn’t respond to her efforts.

Minnesota’s defensive rotations were slow throughout the game, and during Tuesday’s 74-50 loss to Nebraska, the Gophers allowed the Cornhuskers to shoot at will.

“I thought that we gave them really good looks, and they did a very nice job of knocking down those shots,” Stollings said at a postgame press conference.

The 24-point deficit was the second largest loss of the Gophers’ season.

Minnesota experienced a dismal stretch earlier in the season, dropping four of five games, which Stollings attributed to the team’s lack of energy.

And Tuesday was no different.

“We didn’t play with a high enough energy and intensity, and we were there on some of the shots but not there with a purpose of disrupting and bothering them,” Stollings said at the press conference.

While Minnesota players’ energy was down, Nebraska senior guard Tear’a Laudermill’s was not.

Throughout the game, Laudermill guarded Gophers’ junior Shayne Mullaney.

Mullaney, Minnesota’s point guard, appeared uncomfortable as Laudermill mirrored her every move.

“She’s a great defender, and she was all over me all night. I think the second half I handled the pressure better than the first, but, I mean, that pressure comes with being a point guard. I just [have] to keep staying composed and not let that get to me,” Mullaney said.

Laudermill nabbed two steals in the winning effort, both off of Minnesota turnovers.

During the Gophers slump earlier this season, opponents outscored them by an average of more than 13 points per game, including a 26-point drubbing from Illinois.

Nebraska’s shooting on Tuesday gave it a clear advantage over Minnesota.

Minnesota shot 29.5 percent from the field, while the Cornhuskers shot 42 percent.

Nebraska and Minnesota entered the game in a tight battle, fighting for a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament.

But Nebraska was the team that seemed to have the higher sense of urgency.

Though Minnesota senior forward Shae Kelley finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, her efforts weren’t enough.

And after scoring 66 points and bringing down 56 rebounds in her past two games, redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B. was held quiet on Tuesday.

She scored 12 points to go along with six rebounds.

“It wasn’t her best night, but credit to Nebraska. I thought they did a very good job on her defensively and being physical with her around the basket,” Stollings said at the press conference.

Despite the loss, the Gophers still have a chance to clinch a top-four seed in the conference tournament. If that happens, they would have a bye during the first two days of play.

The Gophers will travel to Iowa this weekend to cap off their regular season.

“Our next game is a must-win. We really have to get that one because we didn’t get this one tonight,” Kelley said.

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