Loss to Ohio State likely ends Gophers’ NCAA chances

The Gophers shot 30 percent in an 11-point loss to Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

by Samuel Gordon

Pam Borton’s Gophers packed for a four-day stay at the Big Ten Tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

They only lasted one.

Minnesota’s women’s basketball team fell to Ohio State 58-47 in the first round of the conference tournament.

At 18-13, the Gophers are a long shot to qualify for the NCAA tournament. They haven’t earned a berth since 2009.

Minnesota, the No. 8 seed, held a 25-16 lead midway through the first half, but the No. 9-seeded Buckeyes closed the half with an 8-0 run and parlayed that momentum into a dominant second-half performance.

OSU outscored the Gophers 34-22 in the second stanza.

“It was definitely a tale of two halves for us,” Borton said. “I felt like we gave up the momentum of the game.”

Ohio State, led by Minneapolis native Tayler Hill, opened the second half on a 19-4 run to take a 43-29 lead.

Tenacious team defense by the Buckeyes forced the Gophers into careless turnovers, and Minnesota struggled to get quality shots. The Gophers shot 29.5 percent from the field for the game.

Minnesota star Rachel Banham, who opened the game 5-for-7 from the floor, couldn’t find open shots in the second half. She finished with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting.

“I wasn’t finishing. I wasn’t being as confident as I was in the first half,” Banham said. “I don’t know if it was much of their defense. I think it was more my mindset.”

Every time the Gophers made a push, the Buckeyes responded and extended their lead.

Hill torched her hometown team with 25 points, including 15 in the second half.

She only shot 6-for-16 from the floor, but she made 11 of 14 free throws.

“Our coach did a good job making the adjustments of running different plays to get the floor spread and to get the ball in my hands,” Hill said.

Ohio State center Ashley Adams added 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting and eight rebounds. Borton said the Gophers played good enough defense to win, but “turning the ball over, missing a lot of layups inside … obviously affected what we were doing offensively,” she said.

The NCAA tournament bracket will be revealed March 18.

“I felt like we’re right there, Borton said about a tournament berth. “We’ll just let the basketball gods figure it out.”