Women hoopsters win first home game in Big Ten

by Marci Brown

Editor’s note: The Gophers women’s basketball team played its first home game as a member of the Big Ten Conference on Jan. 14, 1983, against Michigan. Minnesota had previously played teams which would eventually join the Big Ten, but the conference did not sanction women’s basketball until the 1982-83 season.

The Gophers women’s basketball team won against Michigan and Michigan State this weekend in their first two home games ever played in the newly-formed Big Ten Conference.
Minnesota coach Ellen Mosher described her team’s 75-65 win over Michigan State Sunday as just another win.
Although Mosher said she finds it difficult to fault any win, Sunday’s victory was not one of Minnesota’s better games.
“We just weren’t razor sharp,” Mosher said. “We’d make a bad pass, miss a shot, and get frustrated. Once the snowball started rolling, it was hard to stop it.”
“At the half, we were looking at the statistics and were surprised,” Spartan coach Karen Langeland said. “We couldn’t figure out how we were still in the game. Statistically, they’d done everything better than us.”
The Gophers offensive game struggled. The quick-paced Minnesota squad found its running game slowed to a walk.
“We didn’t control the tempo of the game,” Mosher said. “Michigan State likes to play a slower game, and we responded to the pace they set. It turned out that we were walking the ball down the floor when we could have run it.”
The game dragged during most of the first half, with few shots and even fewer baskets. Both teams shot below their season averages. Minnesota hit at 44.3 percent, while Michigan State shot at 35.7 percent.
The Spartans, whose record fell to 1-3, kept the game close. Five minutes into the game, Minnesota and Michigan State stood even, 9-9. And 10 minutes into the game, it was even at 15.
Finally, the Gophers, led by senior point guard Debbie Hunter’s 8-point scoring surge, widened the gap to 33-21 with three minutes left in the half.
“Someone had to get things going; it just happened to be me,” Hunter said. “All through the game we had a hard time getting our offense moving. Our offense sputtered.”
Hunter scored 16 points and tied a Minnesota single-game assist record with 12. Sophomore forward-center Laura Coenen led the Gophers with 28 points.
Coenen, recovering from the flu, was moved from forward to center so she could get better inside shots, Mosher explained.
“Laura was shooting well, but not as well as she could have because of the flu,” Mosher said. “She didn’t have quite the strength to get some outside shots, so we moved her inside.”
In the second half, Michigan State whittled the gap to two points, 47-45, with 13 minutes left.
“We played pretty well, and came close,” Langeland said, “but we couldn’t seem to get the lead. Minnesota’s a good team; we knew we’d have a tough game.”
“It’s possible we took the game for granted,” Hunter said. “I think we underestimated Michigan State a little bit.”
In the second half, the Gophers put on a full-court press, “simply to pick up the pace,” Mosher said. That strategy ended up paying off.
Minnesota won despite playing a lackluster game, but Mosher said that next week Minnesota can’t afford to slack off. “I don’t want to think of this as a trend,” she said, “but both weekends we haven’t played as well on Sunday as we have on Friday.” The Gophers defeated Michigan 90-43 on Friday.
“We can’t have 40-point wins every game,” Mosher said, “but we need to at least play one of our best games if we are to beat Northwestern (3-0 in the Big Ten) next week.”