Women’s hoops coach benched Gophers guard

Ryan Schuster

Sophomore Gophers women’s basketball guard Kiauna Burns did not play during Sunday’s 84-65 loss at Northwestern for a basketball-related reason coach Cheryl Littlejohn characterized as a “coach’s decision.”
“It’s just some things that have happened over the past week and a half,” Littlejohn said before practice on Monday. “We have dealt with them, it’s behind us and that’s the way we’re going to leave it.”
Burns, who was stripped of her starting role by Littlejohn before the team’s Jan. 9 game at Illinois, scored only two points and had six turnovers in the team’s 73-60 loss to Ohio State on Friday.
Burns was averaging 10.7 points, 5.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds a game before she and senior center Angie Iverson lost their starting spots because of poor defensive play.
Whitfield’s knee recovers
Freshman point guard Ayesha Whitfield, who was believed to have suffered a season-ending knee injury during the team’s Dec. 28 loss at Iowa, has made a complete recovery over the past couple of weeks.
Whitfield did not score in two minutes of play Friday night in her first game back and had two points, both on free throws, in six minutes on Sunday.
She was third on the team in scoring at 7.8 points per game before she tore the meniscus tendon in her right knee. The 19-year-old was originally scheduled to have surgery today because of swelling in her knee.
“Her knee is doing a lot better,” Littlejohn said. “Right now she’s good to go and ready to play, which has surprised a lot of people. But I’m definitely happy to have her the rest of the season.”
Team turns to youth
After getting off to a 3-11 start, Littlejohn went with a more youthful starting lineup of two freshmen and three juniors a week ago.
The team responded by going 1-3, with an 81-73 upset win at Michigan State sandwiched between three blowout losses.
Freshman forward Theresa LeCuyer has averaged 11.8 points per game since becoming a starter, and freshman walk-on point guard Rachel Young had a career-high nine points on 4-for-6 shooting on Sunday. But Littlejohn is not yet satisfied with the play of her younger players.
“I expect for them to be playing better than they are right now,” Littlejohn said. “From everyone else’s standpoint, they say just because they’re freshmen, `Oh my goodness they’re playing minutes.’ But they are making a lot of mental mistakes. They could be playing a lot better. So, am I satisfied? Not at all.”
Similarly, Littlejohn was not pleased with her team’s overall play in being swept over the weekend by Ohio State and Northwestern, two mediocre Big Ten teams.
“I’ve been pleased honestly up until this point,” Littlejohn said. “But we still have a lot more progress to make. Since the beginning of the year, it’s like we’re at a standstill. Things that we talked about in November we’re still talking about now. I think in order for us to get where we want to get we have to be able to make some adjustments.”
Quote of the Week
“It was physical,” Ohio State coach Beth Burns said after her team was whistled for 24 fouls to Minnesota’s 20 in the Buckeyes’ 73-60 win at the Sports Pavilion on Friday.
“(The Gophers) do a lot of things off the ball that you and the officials (didn’t see).”
After realizing her comments amounted to a criticism of the officials, Burns backed off.
“No, I didn’t mean that. People get fined for things like that.”
Back door cuts
ù Iverson passed former Gopher Shannon Loeblein for ninth place on the team’s all-time scoring list with her second field goal Friday night. The senior center from Owatonna scored 15 points Friday and two on Sunday to give her 1,044 for her career, 301 points short of Marty Dahlen, who is in eighth place.
ù Sophomore transfer Erin Olson has struggled in her first four games since being declared eligible to play by the NCAA. The 20-year-old point guard scored four points in 18 minutes against Illinois, three points in 17 minutes against Michigan State, did not score in six minutes against Ohio State and did not score in 16 minutes against Northwestern on Sunday.
ù The Gophers are 4-5 when playing on Saturday or Sunday this season and 0-8 during the week. Five of the team’s last nine regular-season games will be played on Sunday, when Minnesota is 2-3 this season.