Women’s hoops

Sarah Mitchell

If Thursday night’s game against a 10-member club team from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, is any indication, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team might be heading in a familiar direction.
Despite the fact Shelen was playing its third game in as many nights, having lost 90-63 to Northwestern on Tuesday and 100-59 to Marquette on Wednesday, Minnesota had to battle for a 75-63 win on Thursday.
But after posting a 4-23 record last season, the Gophers will take a win — any win.
“It feels good to get the first one under our belts,” senior forward Sonja Robinson said of the 75-63 win. “We were all a little jittery.”
Minnesota played passively in the first half, heading into the locker room with a three-point lead. But with a starting lineup that contained one transfer and one freshman, Gophers coach Cheryl Littlejohn expected the slow start.
“We have a lot of new players and everybody was anxiously awaiting the first game,” Littlejohn said.
The second-half Gophers looked a little less sedated, recording 10 steals while outscoring Shelen 43-34.
Part of the uplift was provided by forward Theresa LeCuyer. The sophomore shot 4-for-6 from the floor in the second half and added four points from the free throw line.
Junior guard Antoinetta Blevins was also a contributor to the turnaround, intensifying her hustle in the second half. The 5-foot-7 player known as “Tweet” had six steals despite an ankle injury.
“It was game time so I feel I just had to play through it,” Blevins said.
Running the court for Minnesota was freshman point guard Cassie VanderHeyden. Not only did VanderHeyden try to light things up from behind the three point line, shooting 4-for-10, but she also fulfilled the point guard role by keeping the ball out of the Shelen team hands.
“We need to have a lot of ball security,” Littlejohn said. “That was our woe last season.”
While 20 turnovers was not an alarming statistic for Littlejohn, the coach said the Gophers have enough to work with nearly two weeks before they take the court again. Minnesota returns to action on Nov. 17, when it hosts Illinois State.
“We can’t let up; we can’t be satisfied,” LeCuyer said. “We have to work hard and it starts in practice.”