Slow starts, finishes have Gophers in a hole

Missed chances have contributed to a four-game losing streak.

Ohio State guard Raven Ferguson defends Minnesota forward Micaëlla Riché on Jan. 10, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Mark Vancleave, Daily File Photo

Ohio State guard Raven Ferguson defends Minnesota forward Micaëlla Riché on Jan. 10, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Samuel Gordon

What’s the difference between a four-game losing streak and back-to-back wins?

For Minnesota, it’s late-game execution.

Both of the Gophers women’s basketball team’s last two games were decided in the final minutes.

But untimely fouls, turnovers and poor offensive execution doomed the squad (13-8), which now sits 2-5 in Big Ten play.

Minnesota held late leads in both of its last two losses.

“We are lacking discipline [late in games], whether it’s the four fouls, five fouls, five turnovers,” forward-center Micaëlla Riché said. “Opponents know us better than we know ourselves at this point. You’ve got to figure it out quick.”

Head coach Pam Borton attributed Minnesota’s recent late-game struggles to turnovers, fouls and not playing smart.

Borton said the team is focusing on correcting those issues, and the last two games have been a good teaching point.

While the late-game struggles are a relatively new problem, slow starts have plagued the Gophers at various points throughout the season.

In its most recent loss to Illinois on Monday, Minnesota fell behind by double digits midway through the first half and spent much of the game playing catch-up.

“We’re always digging ourselves out of a hole,” junior forward Kionna Kellogg said. “Once we dig ourselves out of that hole, we have to have a next gear.”

Kellogg added slow starts have been a problem on and off throughout the last three years.

Borton said the coaching staff has been trying to figure out why the team is slow out of the gates.

“At home, we have not come out with the same sense of urgency defensively,” she said.

On Monday, the Gophers allowed a season-high 91 points. Illinois’ big Karisma Penn was a terror down low, and she helped space the floor for shooters, who seemingly couldn’t miss.

The Gophers made a late push and eventually took the lead, and although they lost, Kellogg said the comeback was encouraging.

“We see how much potential we have,” she said. “We have to figure out how we get that and start the game off and finish the game off with that intensity.”

Riché said the team remains motivated amid its struggles.

“We’re getting hungrier and hungrier for the next win.” she said. “It’s not too late to get to 20 wins and reach our goals this year.”