Slide continues with early exit vs. Indiana

by Emily Wickstrom

INDIANAPOLIS – This is the time of the year when teams want to play their best basketball of the season, and Minnesota’s women’s team is doing just the opposite.

The 20th-ranked Gophers suffered an uninspired 61-46 loss to Indiana in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“Tonight’s game was a very disappointing display of basketball,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “Anytime in March you shoot 31 percent for the game and have 20 turnovers you’re not going to win.”

The Gophers beat the Hoosiers in both regular season matchups, but on Friday came out flat from the tip-off.

Indiana led the entire game, jumping out to a quick 10-2 lead behind a pressure defense that frustrated the Gophers.

Minnesota missed its first five shots and was held scoreless for almost four minutes before a basket by sophomore forward Natasha Williams.

“Defensively we were holding them, but defense can only hold on so long before the dam breaks,” Borton said.

“We just couldn’t score on the other end.”

Struggling through turnovers and missed open looks, the Gophers were fortunate Shannon Schonrock was hitting her shots.

The senior guard hit three three-pointers toward the end of the first half to keep Minnesota’s deficit to just five, 25-20, at the break.

“We missed a lot of easy lay-ups inside,” Borton said. “I thought we were choosing not to attack the rim and be aggressive and at least get ourselves to the foul line.”

The Gophers attempted just nine free throws compared with the Hoosiers’ 23.

Indiana went on an 11-2 run to open the second half to push its lead to 14 points and deflate the Gophers, who were subsequently unable to put together any sort of run and continued to accumulate turnovers.

The Hoosiers’ defense prevented any of Minnesota’s post players, including leading scorer Jamie Broback, from doing any sort of offensive damage.

Broback, who torched Indiana with at least 20 points in both regular season matchups, was held to just eight points and 10 shot attempts.

“The post players, myself included, weren’t as strong as we needed to be in order for us to win this game,” Broback said.

Hoosiers sophomore guard Nikki Smith, who came into the game averaging 7.7 points, was the difference-maker for Indiana, hitting four three-pointers with a game-high 18 points.

Indiana’s All-Big Ten honorees Cyndi Valentin and Jenny DeMuth each had 14 points.

Reserve forward Liz Podomonick was the only Minnesota player in double figures with 11 points, while Schonrock was next with nine.

“It was everything I hoped it would be,” Indiana coach Sharon Versyp said of her team’s performance. “We executed the game plan and made every goal that we set.”