Freshmen lead U women’s strong weekend showing

by Mark Heller

You heard it here first, and not from any of the other papers’ gossip mongers: this year’s freshman class on the women’s basketball team are going to be good.
And Natea Motley has played all of nine minutes.
Motley was a Nike High School All-American last season and was widely regarded as the best player coming out of Michigan. But she has been recovering from a foot injury. Gophers coach Cheryl Littlejohn expects Motley to be back to full strength in about three weeks.
Minus Motley, they showed their promise in last weekend’s Regal Classic in both a 79-70 loss to Ball State, and especially in a 60-57 win over Georgetown.
“We have some young and talented freshmen,” said Littlejohn following the win over Georgetown. “(Senior) Moneeke Bowden struggled, and Brandy Pickens (four points and six rebounds in 20 minutes) came in and did a great job.”
Lindsay Lieser’s 40 points and 11 three-pointers, and Trish McGhee’s 24 points off the bench were the two biggest contributors. McGhee and senior Erin Olson helped Minnesota’s bench outscore Georgetown’s 31-15.
Lieser also hit a huge three from a few feet behind the arc to bring the Gophers to 57-54 with just over two minutes left in the game. She then hit two free throws with 57 seconds left to get within one.
“We’re down six and she knocks it back down to three,” Olson said of the three-pointer. “She’s automatic, she’ll knock down any shot, and that stretches the defense. She’s a great player and also a smart one to get herself open.”
Even in the loss to Ball State, Lieser was 8-for-13 from the field and 7-for-12 from three country. McGhee had 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Not to be outdone, the veteran made her presence felt. Olson added seven points, four rebounds and six assists. She also hit four free throws in the final 45 seconds to ice the come-from-behind victory against the Hoyas.
“You better believe it,” Littlejohn said when asked if Olson was who she wanted shooting the free throws. “Erin has proved herself. She’s our stabilizer. She can get it done at every position: scoring, defending and rebounding. When the game’s on the line, you have to have the ball in the hands of the most experienced people who can get it done.”
So far it’s the youth that are getting it done. Throw in Motley, and Littlejohn appears to have herself a nice collection of young go-getters.
“The most obvious part is that they can score,” Littlejohn said. “But they have a lot of heart and are excited, and that’s contagious.”
California dreamin’
The Gophers don’t get much time to wallow in Sunday’s late-game heroics. They will play in San Diego tonight at 9 p.m. CST.
Speaking of freshmen, this will be the first roadtrip for many. For now, anyway, it sounds like all fun and games.
“It’s my first time traveling,” McGhee said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Mark Heller covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected].