Gophers falter late after late push vs. No. 8 PSU

Minnesota had 23 turnovers, including two crucial ones in the game’s final minutes.

Samuel Gordon

Ball security and late-game execution are two critical elements that separate the good teams from the average teams.

On Thursday, No. 8 Penn State women’s basketball team took care of the ball and made critical plays down the stretch.

The Gophers women’s basketball team did not.

The result was a 64-59 loss — Minnesota’s third straight.

The Gophers (13-7, 2-4 Big Ten), who opened conference play by winning two of their first three games, haven’t won a Big Ten game since Jan. 10 and currently sit eighth in the Big Ten standings.

Minnesota pushed the conference’s top team to its brink and nearly handed Penn State its first loss in Big Ten play.

But guard Rachel Banham, who led the Gophers with 19 points, had back-to-back turnovers in the game’s final minutes and missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with 13 seconds left.

“Critical plays and critical calls at the end. That was the only difference,” Gophers head coach Pam Borton said in a release.

The Gophers turned the ball over 23 times. The Nittany Lions had 12 turnovers.

The Gophers have historically played Penn State tough — the Nittany Lions eked out a 78-74 victory in last year’s Big Ten tournament — and they did so again Thursday.

The two squads exchanged buckets throughout the game, and the Gophers led for stretches in both halves.

But they couldn’t contain Nittany Lions guard Maggie Lucas, who led all scorers with 26 points, including four free throws down the stretch that helped seal the game. She added six rebounds and four assists.

“[Lucas] carried us with making shots,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said in a release. “So it is good when you have a player like Maggie who can really take over a game and put up a lot of points.”

Foul trouble kept Gophers forward-center Micaëlla Riché out of the game for about a 10-minute stretch in the second half.

She finished the game with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, but Borton said in the release that the team missed her presence in the post while she was out.

Minnesota spoiled one of its best defensive efforts of the season.

The Gophers held the Nittany Lions to 35 percent shooting — more than 6 percentage points lower than its season average.

Lucas was the only Penn State starter to shoot 50 percent or better from the field.

“I thought we did a great job keeping them out of the lane and slowing them down and making them play a half-court game,” Borton said in the release.

In all, Borton appeared satisfied with her team’s effort.

“I thought for the most part we locked into our game plan today, and we were pretty successful at that,” she said in the release. “It came down to a play here and a play there at the end.”