Gophers’ season ends with first-round loss

Minnesota falls to Penn State at Big Ten tournament to close first losing season under Borton.

Aleutian Calabay

The Minnesota women’s basketball team can finally breathe a sigh of relief, even if it comes rather unsatisfactorily. One of the GophersâÄô most disappointing seasons in recent years came to an end Thursday as they fell to Penn State 63-52 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. The loss gave Minnesota a final record of 13-17 (6-12 in regular-season Big Ten games), marking the first ever losing season under head coach Pam Borton and most recent since 2000-01. ThursdayâÄôs game was the last in the Gophers careers of seniors Ashley Ellis-Milan , Zoe Harper , Brittany McCoy , Katie Ohm and Tanisha Smith . âÄúThis isn’t how we wanted to end the year,âÄù Borton said. “We’ve had a tough season, but for the seniorsâĦthey’ve had a great four years with memories and three postseasons and the friendships, and they’ve given a lot to this programâĦ For everybody that’s coming back, we’ve got a lot of work to do.âÄù Gophers junior guard China Antoine came off the bench to lead the Gophers. She made 4-of-6 3-point field goals for her team-leading 12 points. AntoineâÄôs performance was a good sign for the future, as she had battled injuries through most of the second half of the season but is expected to be one of the primary ball-handlers for the Gophers next season. Nittany Lions senior guard Tyra Grant scored a game-high 15 points. Freshman center Nikki Greene added 12 points and six rebounds for Penn State. The Gophers began the game exactly as they wanted, playing solid defense while their guards got open looks at the basket. A 3-pointer from sophomore guard Kiara Buford and two more from Antoine helped Minnesota go on an early 11-0 run to take a 16-6 lead. But as has been the case often this season, Minnesota’s offense was stagnant for more than five minutes during the first half, which allowed Penn State to chip away at the GophersâÄô lead. It was a 27-27 game at halftime. The Nittany LionsâÄô momentum carried over into the second half, as they went on a 10-0 run early in the half to take a 39-31 lead. From that point, they answered any Minnesota run, holding a five- to 10-point lead the rest of the way. Although the Gophers entered the tournament in last place in the conference, McCoy said the team had a positive mindset entering ThursdayâÄôs game. âÄúWe knew this was something we could do: make a run at this tournament, take it one at a time and look at the bigger picture, know we had a pretty good draw, and we had a good opportunity to win it all,âÄù she said. âÄúI think peopleâÄôs minds are in the right place, and unfortunately we just didn’t get the win today.âÄù