Low points becoming a weekly event

The Gophers are still winless in the Big Ten and squandered another double-digit lead, this time at home against Wisconsin.

Low points becoming a weekly event

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Jesse Mandell-McClinton

The Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team is mired in perhaps its worst stretch since head coach Pam Borton took over the program in 2002.

After blowing another double-digit lead against a Big Ten opponent with Wisconsin at Williams Arena Thursday night and losing 71-63, the team dropped its seventh straight conference game, 66-54, on the road at No. 12 Michigan State on Sunday afternoon.

The game against the Badgers was especially wrenching, as the Gophers gave up their fourth double-digit lead to a Big Ten opponent and third at home this season.

âÄúTonight was a tale of two halves,âÄù Borton said after ThursdayâÄôs loss. âÄúWe completely got away from the game plan in the second half.âÄù

Borton said that her team was shooting too quickly and letting up on defense after the break.

The Gophers came out of the gate firing against the Badgers, getting quick threes from Jackie Voigt and Brianna Mastey to grab the early momentum.

The surge extended through the period as Leah Cotton came off the bench hot, scoring 15 points in the last 11 minutes of the first half. The Gophers never faced a deficit and went into the break up 44-30.

It was a statistically encouraging half for the Gophers, considering they scored more points in 20 minutes than over the entire 40 when they met the Badgers on Jan. 9. Minnesota also took advantage of the BadgersâÄô 11 fouls in the first half, going 15-of-15 from the free throw line.

In the second half however, Wisconsin came out with more energy than Minnesota, and in just six minutes cut the lead in half to trail 48-41. The GophersâÄô struggles on defense soon rubbed off on their scoring. They started to rush shots and went 3-of-16 from the floor to start the second period.

Helped by MinnesotaâÄôs poor shooting, Wisconsin finished the game on a 19-8 run, erasing the Gophers lead and knocking Minnesota to 0-6 in the conference.

Cotton was one of the lone positives on the night, scoring 24 points to go along with 5 rebounds.

âÄúI was trying to attack, be more aggressive, get the ball to the hoop, and get points in some kind of way. ItâÄôs just unfortunate the way it turned out,âÄù Cotton said of the game.

Kiara Buford, who scored 17 at Wisconsin in the teamsâÄô previous meeting, could not find the same success at home. Burford scored just 9 points on 2-of-13 shooting. It was the third straight home game in which she scored less than her season average, and Borton said she wasnâÄôt sure why Burford was struggling at home.

MinnesotaâÄôs game on Sunday was much less dramatic as Big Ten leader Michigan State kept the Gophers at bay. Minnesota led 2-0 a minute into the game âÄî but never again.

Buford found her stroke again, scoring a game-high 24 points, but other than that it was another frustrating conference loss. The Gophers were outrebounded 45-31 and allowed Michigan State to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field in the first half, which helped the Spartans build a lead they were never truly in jeopardy of losing.

Minnesota returns home for two games against Northwestern and Michigan this week. The Gophers will have to look to their experienced coaches and players for leadership in order to begin their climb out of the conference cellar.