Oh so close, U fumbles chance in OT

by Aaron Kirscht

Following an 89-85 overtime loss to Illinois Friday, Gophers center Angie Iverson was asked what team would be their first Big Ten victim.
“Michigan State,” she said, their Sunday opponent. “We’ll get ’em.”
Iverson’s prophecy wasn’t realized, though, as the Spartans added to the Gophers’ woes with a convincing 76-65 win. Minnesota’s Big Ten losing streak now stands at 27.
For a while, at least, the Gophers appeared ready to break through on Friday. Down 66-58 with 6:38 to play, Minnesota went on a rare 10-2 run that tied the game with less than three minutes to go.
The comeback was led by forward Lynda Hass, who converted a pair of free throws, grabbed a pair of key rebounds and blocked a shot. She hit from deep in the right corner to tie the game at 68-68.
The two teams traded baskets down the stretch. Hass gave the Gophers a one-point lead with her three-pointer from the top of the key, but Illinois grabbed it back with 33 seconds to play.
Illini forward Nicole Vasey was fouled by Iverson moments later, but missed the first half of a one-and-one. That gave the Gophers 14 seconds to work a final shot, down by one, 74-73.
Not surprisingly, the ball went to Iverson, who finished with 22 points. She was fouled under the basket, and went to the line with a chance to give the Gophers a lead with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Iverson’s first attempt clanged off the back of the rim, but she left no room for doubt on the second, which tied the game. A few ticks of the clock and an Illinois double-dribble later, both teams were set for their first extra session of the season.
In overtime, the Gophers took the lead, 78-77, with 3:44 to play, on another clutch basket by Hass. But the rally ended there. A pair of turnovers stifled the Gophers’ hopes for a Big Ten win.
Hass hit a desperation 3-pointer, bringing Minnesota to within two with 12 seconds remaining, but the Gophers were then forced to foul. Illinois hit their free throws.
The game was over. The streak was not.
“I’m just glad we won,” Illinois coach Theresa Grentz said. “Minnesota was extremely well-prepared, and played hard. Give them credit, they’re doing the best they can.”
But moral victories don’t mean squat for a team that stands at 2-13, or for a coach who may be in danger of losing her job. Grentz said she had a lot of sympathy for the Gophers’ troubles.
“To play the way they played tonight and not come away with a win is hard,” Grentz said. “It’s going to hurt in the morning.”
When she heard of Grentz’s good tidings, Minnesota coach Linda Hill-MacDonald seemed to take offense.
“She doesn’t know this team,” she said. “Nobody knows this team except me.”
Holding her thumb and index finger less than an inch apart, Hill-MacDonald said her team was “this close” to beating Illinois.
“We do one thing better in regulation and this is a win,” she said. “We hit one more free throw and this is a win. We hit one wide open lay-up and this is a win.”
But the free throws didn’t fall, and the lay-ups took funny bounces. And the Gophers didn’t win.
The result was the same against Michigan State on Sunday, though the path was considerably different. The Spartans opened up an 11-point lead midway through the first half and rolled. Michigan State forward Paula Sanders pushed the lead to 14 at the half with a tap-in basket with .3 seconds remaining.
“We were terrible in the first half,” Hill-MacDonald said. “We were flat, intimidated and not aggressive on defense.”

Illinois 32 42 15 — 89
Gophers 30 44 11 — 85

SCORING: Klun 3-8 0-0 6, Hansen 5-14 0-1 10, Iverson 5-12 12-14 22, Burns 4-11 2-3 10, Ellis 3-4 0-0 6, Hass 7-13 3-4 19, Robinson 3-7 4-6 10, Seago 1-3 0-0 2.
REBOUNDS: Klun 2, Hansen 9, Iverson 14, Burns 4, Ellis 1, Hass 5, Robinson 2, Seago 4.
A — 874.

Michigan State 43 33 — 76
Gophers 29 36 — 65

SCORING: Hansen 2-7 0-0 4, Klun 4-8 3-3 11, Iverson 7-16 9-12 24, Ellis 0-1 0-0 0, Burns 5-10 0-0 10, Hass 5-12 2-2 14, Robinson 1-5 0-0 2, Seago 0-3 0-0 0.
REBOUNDS: Hansen 3, Klun 2, Iverson 12, Ellis 2, Burns 5, Hass 4, Robinson 3, Seago 2.
A — 1,288.