Women’s hoops follows win with loss to undefeated UNLV

by Jim Schortemeyer

The Minnesota women’s basketball team was just cruising along, riding their first two-game win streak in more than two years, when reality finally smacked them upside the head.
The Gophers (3-3) continued their .500 play with two very different games this weekend. Minnesota walloped Bradley 84-59 on Saturday but was beaten handily by UNLV 75-61 on Sunday.
The loss to the Lady Rebels (4-0) had much to do with fouls and a streaky offense that sputtered its way to 61 points — most of which came after UNLV built a steady 12-point lead in the second half.
In fact, just about the only thing Minnesota had going for it on offense was the play of senior Sonja Robinson.
Robinson had a career-best 17 points Saturday, which she topped with 18 points and nine rebounds on Sunday against the Rebels. The rest of the Minnesota offense wasn’t as prolific Sunday. The team shot only 30 percent from the floor and went 16-for-30 on free throws.
“This game was determined at the free throw line,” coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “Regardless of the field goals … we lost by 14 points, and we missed 14 free throws. To me, that’s the game.”
Whatever the reasons, the Gophers on Sunday were entirely different from the team that pummeled Bradley (2-3).
“The team that played yesterday, I don’t think any of us saw that team today,” Littlejohn said.
Minnesota’s struggles against UNLV started from the opening tip-off. The Gophers struggled against the Rebels’ zone defense and rarely got a good look at the basket.
After taking an 11-7 lead, Minnesota went more than eight minutes without making a field goal. The two points the Gophers managed in that period came on a pair of free throws.
“We were aware of their shooters,” UNLV coach Regina Miller. “They’re a fairly young team and don’t have much playing experience. When you have a young team you want to mix it up and keep them off base.”
Both sides were hobbled by fouls in a sluggish first half. Minnesota’s leading scorer — sophomore Theresa LeCuyer — spent most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble, while UNLV star Linda Froehlich rode the Rebel pine with the same problem.
But Froehlich, who scored 39 points in UNLV’s win over Delaware, wouldn’t be contained for long.
“I’m always better in the second half,” Froehlich said.
Froehlich and the rest of the Rebels added to their halftime lead of 30-22 throughout the second half, leading by as many as 16 points. She finished with 24 points, and 12 rebounds.
The 14-point loss left the Gophers disappointed in their performance.
“The key was coming in with the same intensity we had against Bradley and we didn’t do that,” Littlejohn said. “I’m not down in the dumps, but I am disappointed.”
The Bradley game was close at halftime, but the Gophers exploded for 47 points in the second half to Bradley’s 25.
The Minnesota scoring outburst was aided by the emergence of Antoinetta Blevins, who came off the bench for 15 points in 19 minutes on the floor.
But that type of bench performance was absent Sunday. The young Minnesota bench had been outscoring opponents by more than 12 points per game but was beaten 18-15 by the Rebel bench.
The inconsistency of their weekend performances will likely send the Gophers back to the drawing board for their upcoming six-game road trip.
“We just have to go back and start from scratch,” Robinson said.