Gophers blown out to end year

Minnesota must win the Big Ten tournament to play in the postseason.

by Aleutian Calabay

Perhaps mercifully, the 2009-10 Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball season came to an end on Sunday. In a year filled with disappointments, the Gophers capped off the season with a blowout loss at Michigan State, falling 70-50. MinnesotaâÄôs final record of 13-16 (6-12 in the Big Ten) means that it will not be playing in either the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitational Tournament unless the Gophers win the Big Ten Tournament next weekend. âÄúI didnâÄôt think our effort was the same as it had been the last four games,âÄù coach Pam Borton said. âÄúI thought it was there for some players but not for others, and we have to win as a team and not as individuals.âÄù While the game ended poorly for the Gophers, the younger players who stepped up gave a glimpse of what the future could hold for Minnesota. One of those players was freshman Katie Loberg who had career highs in points (10) and rebounds (11) as she played 25 minutes off the bench. âÄúI just had a lot of fun with it today,âÄù Loberg said. âÄúI went crazy after rebounds. Obviously they [Michigan State] are a bigger competition, but I just raised my game up to it and took on the challenge.âÄù Another key to the womenâÄôs basketball future will be the continued emergence of sophomore Kiara Buford, who continued to improve as the season drew to a close. Buford finished the game with 10 points, three rebounds and two assists. The win for Michigan State (21-8, 12-6 Big Ten) clinched second place behind Ohio State in the pre-Big Ten Tournament standings and solidified hopes for the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans were led by senior Allyssa DeHaan who had a game-high 13 points and three blocks, adding to her NCAA record 499 career blocks . Lykendra Johnson and freshman Jasmine Thomas each added 12 points for Michigan State. The Gophers came out of the gate hanging tough with the Spartans as back-to-back jumpers by Ashley Ellis-Milan gave Minnesota an early 4-2 lead. Michigan State began finding ways around the Minnesota defense, but the Gophers answered back as Loberg made two straight layups. However, midway through the first half, the Minnesota offense became stagnant, going more than six minutes without a point. Meanwhile Michigan State continued to pound the basket down low as they went on 14-0 run to take a commanding 24-10 lead. Shooting woes âÄî as they had almost all season âÄî plagued the Gophers throughout the first half as they shot only 25 percent from the field. The Spartans, on the other hand, shot 44.4 percent as they went into halftime with a 33-17 lead. Despite the large deficit, Minnesota continued to fight in the second half. A Buford jumper closed the gap to 13 with 12 minutes remaining. But the Spartans answered right back with a 9-2 run as they ran away with the game. The Gophers will now face an all-or-nothing situation in the Big Ten tournament. Seeding is yet to be determined, but the first round, which will include Minnesota, begins on Thursday. âÄúI think at this point we will approach it as a second opportunity,âÄù Borton said. âÄúWe have to see a lot better effort and play more in the moment than we did tonight or itâÄôs going to be a short Big Ten Tournament.âÄù