Gophers fall to Middle Tennessee in championship game

Minnesota had won six straight home tournament titles before this weekend.

Paul Cordes

The Minnesota basketball women’s basketball team was unable to extend its streak of six straight home tournament titles as it was dealt its first loss of the year by Middle Tennessee.

The Blue Raiders had the Gophers on the ropes for 40 minutes Sunday in the championship game of the Subway Classic at Williams Arena, winning 79-61.

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Middle Tennessee put full court pressure on Minnesota the entire game and it took its toll on the Gophers.

Minnesota (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) was able to break the press, but precious time was taken off the shot clock forcing the Gophers to take rushed shots and commit two shot clock violations.

Senior guard Kelly Roysland said Minnesota tried to take advantage of the press by attempting to pass the ball down court for a possible three-on-two, but the Blue Raiders made some adjustments and never gave the Gophers the chance.

“We wanted to break the press quick because we were getting rushed into taking some shots we didn’t want to,” she said. “They did a good job of slowing us down coming across the court and once we got into rush mode we couldn’t execute.”

Middle Tennessee (2-2 overall, 0-0 Sun Belt) went up as many as 20 points in the first half. Minnesota’s 18 turnovers coupled with the Blue Raiders shooting 58 percent from the field left the Gophers down 38-24 at the half.

Minnesota wasn’t able to leave those troubles in the locker room for the second half either. At one point, Middle Tennesee was up by as many as 29, but the Gophers didn’t want to go quietly.

A late 15-0 run put Minnesota within striking distance with 6:21 to go, but 14 points would be as close as it would get.

The Blue Raiders exposed a couple of Minnesota’s weak spots, scoring 27 points off turnovers and 14 points after offensive rebounds.

Coach Pam Borton said that Middle Tennessee took advantage of all her team’s weaknesses.

“I think when you’re playing a team of this caliber, they’re going to exploit some things that you can get away with against other teams,” she said. “I thought, in the past few games, we’ve been a little sloppy with the ball, and we’ll just go back and really work on half court execution, press breakers, post play and a lot of other things.”

Gophers beat Princeton

Minnesota had little trouble reaching the championship game against Middle Tennessee, cruising past Princeton 85-60 Saturday.

Five Gophers scored in double figures and sophomore guard Emily Fox attributed it to the team’s developing chemistry.

“I think we’re coming together and we’re getting more used to playing with each other,” she said.

Minnesota trailed just once and the Gophers ended the first half up 47-34, after a turnaround buzzer beating jumper by Fox.

Dominance on defense was the story for the second half as Minnesota held Princeton (1-2, 0-0 Ivy League) to 26 points and much of the Gophers’ offense came from the defensive pressure.

Borton said she was very pleased with her team’s defensive effort, especially some halftime adjustments that were made.

“I thought our defense was a lot more aggressive,” she said. “We want to score from our defense. I think we’re just trying to create a little chaos when we’re on defense.”