Women’s hoops ends losing streak

Aaron Kirscht

A team in the midst of a rebuilding period must try to avoid emotional excesses, making sure not to climb too high or fall too low.
When the Gophers women’s basketball team opened the Dial Classic with a tight 68-66 win over Wyoming on Saturday, ending a 19-game losing streak dating back to Dec. 20, 1995, there was the possibility of a letdown.
But no such letdown was evident in Sunday’s championship game against James Madison — until the closing two minutes, that is. The Gophers (1-3) came out on the short end, losing to JMU, 64-56.
Minnesota continued to play the type of basketball for which opposing coaches say they’re beginning to acquire a reputation: tough inside and scrappy all over the court.
After Saturday’s win, coach Linda Hill-MacDonald targeted several areas for improvement if the Gophers were to win their second consecutive game for the first time since Jan. 27 and 29, 1995, when they beat Michigan and Iowa.
“We want to take better care of the ball, we want to rebound better and hit our free throws,” Hill-MacDonald said. “That’s all part of the game, part of improving and getting better.”
Against Wyoming, Minnesota totaled a relatively low 19 turnovers, but it was out-rebounded and shot 57 percent from the line. The Gophers appeared to follow Hill-MacDonald’s advice on Sunday, out-rebounding James Madison by one (30-29) and improving their free-throw shooting by five percent. Minnesota, however, gave up the ball 30 times.
“A lot of those were unforced errors,” Ellis said. “Most of the time we just handed over the ball and gave them 30 more opportunities to score.”
At the midway point of the first half of Sunday’s game, the teams had combined for only 26 points. But James Madison jumped out to a seven-point lead thanks to a string of Gophers turnovers.
Yet for every bad pass by the Gophers, James Madison answered with a foul. Minnesota freshman Kiauna Burns scored on a running jumper and a steal by sophomore Sarah Klun led to an Angie Iverson layup. The Gophers cut the lead to two with 42 seconds left in the half on sophomore Mindy Hansen’s 15-foot baseline jumper.
James Madison started the second half where they left off, fouling like crazy — three in the first two minutes. Only this time, the Gophers responded in kind, committing three fouls in a 52-second span.
But through all the slaps, pushes and blocks, Minnesota managed to tie the game 2:25 into the second half. With her back to the hoop, sophomore forward Lynda Hass juked her defender with a ball fake and drove the baseline for an easy layup. Minnesota opened their largest lead of the game — a slim three points — a minute later on a steal and fast-break layup by Burns.
The Gophers and Dukes traded the lead 10 times in the half, until James Madison’s Kish Jordan took advantage of another errant Minnesota pass and scored on a layup. Jordan’s basket put the Dukes ahead to stay. The Gophers were forced to foul in the waning minutes of the game, but the Dukes (3-0) hit their free throws and held on for an eight-point win.
The Gophers will take their 1-3 record to Colorado State on Tuesday, where Hill-MacDonald will try to get her team back in the win column.
“If they only concentrate on (the James Madison) game, it could rattle their confidence,” she said. “But if they dwell on the positives of the weekend, I think they should go away feeling pretty good.”

Wyoming 29 37 — 66
Gophers 34 34 — 68

SCORING — Robinson 4-12 4-8 12, Klun 1-4 0-0 2, Iverson 2-9 8-10 12, Hansen 6-11 1-4 14, Ellis 3-4 0-0 7, Burns 3-8 3-7 10, Hass 2-8 5-7 9, Seago 1-1 0-1 2.
REBOUNDING — Robinson 5, Klun 2, Iverson 14, Hansen 5, Ellis 1, Burns 3, Hass 8.
A — 948.

James Madison 29 35 — 64
Gophers 26 30 — 56

SCORING — Robinson 6-12 2-3 14, Klun 1-5 2-2 4, Iverson 2-5 3-5 7, Hansen 5-13 1-3 11, Ellis 2-6 2-4 8, Burns 2-3 0-0 4, Hass 3-8 2-2 8, Seago 0-0 0-0 0.
REBOUNDING — Robinson 11, Klun 1, Iverson 7, Hansen 3, Ellis 1, Burns 0, Hass 5, Seago 2.
A — 1,621.