U drops third straight Big Ten game

by Dan Miller

With bewildered faces, Minnesota’s women’s basketball players led the crowd in singing the “Minnesota Rouser” following a shocking 72-69 loss at Williams Arena, culminating a bittersweet Sunday afternoon.

Gophers senior Lindsay Whalen became the Gophers’ all-time scoring leader. But the mark was overshadowed by the ninth-ranked Gophers’ third consecutive loss to No. 20 Michigan State.

The defeat marks the longest losing streak for the Gophers since the 2000-01 season.

Leading 65-60 with five minutes to play, the Gophers (15-3, 4-3 Big Ten) self-destructed in the final minutes of the game committing four consecutive turnovers in the final stretch.

The Spartans’ late defensive surge was ignited by freshman Rene Haynes, who stripped the ball from Gophers sophomore Shannon Schonrock at the five-minute mark and converted with a fast break lay-up.

Haynes then recorded the other three Spartans’ steals and hit a back-breaking three-pointer with 3:48 left and time expiring on the shot clock to tie the game at 65.

Whalen put the Gophers up 69-68 on a hand-off pass from junior Janel McCarville with 1:08 left in the game.

But Kelli Roehrig grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, putting the Spartans up 70-69 with 19 seconds to play.

Left with no timeouts, Minnesota ran a broken play that ended in a missed shot by McCarville that went off the side of the backboard. Haynes converted two free throws for the Spartans, putting them up for good.

“We made too many mistakes in crucial times,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said.

Whalen wasted little time breaking the school scoring record, hitting a three-pointer that brought the 13,638 fans on hand to their feet flashing yellow signs reading “2,098.”

Whalen then proceeded to knock down three more shots from beyond the arc in the first half that gave the Gophers a 39-35 lead midway through the game.

All told, Whalen hit a career-high seven three-pointers in the loss and led all scorers with 27 points.

“All we can do right now is look ahead and get ready for our next game,” Whalen said. “You can’t let rough games in January affect your entire season.”

McCarville recorded her eighth double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Gophers started the game as if they were ready to bounce back from two straight road losses.

Freshman Kelly Roysland hit a runner in the lane with 12:30 remaining to give the Gophers a 20-11 edge, the largest lead of the game.

But Michigan State sophomore Lindsay Bowen knocked down two three-pointers in a matter of two minutes to move the Spartans within six at the 7:38 mark.

Bowen had an answer every time it looked like the Gophers were going to pull away, quieting the crowd with four three-pointers and 18 points.

Spartans sophomore Liz Shimek hit a three and Kristin Haynie hit a pull-up jumper to tie the game at 31 with 3:30 left.

Whalen then knocked down two threes in the last 2:17 of the first stanza, the second as time expired.

“We give the Spartans a lot of credit, but we are very confident in what we are doing,” Borton said.

The Gophers host Indiana on Thursday and are looking to rebound from their losing streak.

“We need to take care of the ball,” Borton said. “Turnovers are beginning to be a plague for us. They’re creeping up in crucial situations.”