Losing streak rolls on for women’s basketball

by Brian Stensaas

And the streak goes on.
More often than not, streaks, in sports, are a good thing.
Welcome to the not.
The Minnesota women’s basketball (8-15, 1-11 Big Ten) team lost its 23rd consecutive Big Ten home game Thursday night, falling to Wisconsin 66-55.
The tale of the game was told at the free-throw line. Wisconsin (13-9, 6-6) shot from the charity stripe 35 times, making 80 percent of the shots. Minnesota took just 15 free throws total.
“I think that of all of our losses we’ve had this year, this is the most frustrating,” Gophers coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “Our team came out in the second half and picked up the intensity defensively. We were a couple short.”
Littlejohn was quick to acknowledge the free-throw issue and take a not-so-subtle shot at the officiating.
“There’s one thing that I’d like to say, but I’d probably be fined $10,000,” Littlejohn continued. “Read between the lines.”
Wisconsin’s Tamara Moore — a Minneapolis native and one of four Minnesotans on the Badger roster — set the stage early, hitting a pair of three-pointers in the first 4:30 of the game. The treys helped establish an 11-2 run for the Badgers to start things off.
In total the first half was all-out ugly for the Gophers. Minnesota couldn’t keep pace with the Badgers. The Gophers committed 10 turnovers and shot just 31 percent from the field. Adding to the first-half woes was when 6-foot-7 Kim Bell whistled for her third foul at the 8:43 mark, taking away the height advantage inside.
After heading into the locker room down 33-22, the Gophers came out strong in the second half. Moneeke Bowden and Kim Prince combined to score 15 of the Gophers’ first 21 points in the second half. Eyes began to widen at the 10:36 mark of the second as Brandy Pickens nailed two free throws to get Minnesota within two at 43-41.
Thoughts of a first home Big Ten win in over three years seemed possible.
But the Badgers found a way to win down the stretch.
Consider this: The Badgers made just four baskets in the last 9:30.
They scored 23 points.
Translation: 15 points from the line and a 66-55 win.
“I thought that we did a great job of finishing off the game to ensure the win,” Wisconsin coach Jane Albright said. “I really felt that in the second half, all the games we’ve been playing kind of hit us. We were trying to keep our starters fresh, and our bench did a good job maintaining and our starters went in and finished off the game.”
Bowden finished the game with 15 points (13 in the second half) to lead the team. Prince finished with 14 points (10 in the second) while Moore and Oakdale native Jessie Stomski led Wisconsin with 22 and 18 points respectively.

A red homecoming
Thursday marked the second time the sophomores from Wisconsin returned home to play against the Gophers. And to them, it was just business as usual.
“It really wasn’t like last year,” Stomski said. “It was just another game.”
“It’s just an honor to be able to play at the college level,” Moore said, “and to have people respect our decision to come to Wisconsin.”

Brian Stensaas welcomes comments at [email protected].