Gophers 6-game win streak ends with loss to Virginia

After a big win against Kentucky in Hawaii, the Gopher went cold Saturday.

by Mark Heise

It’s a good thing the Gophers can rebound.

The Minnesota women’s basketball team needed at least two chances to score each time down the floor against North Dakota State last night at Williams Arena, winning the battle on the offensive boards to come away with the 68-65 win.

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virginia tech
what: Women’s Basketball Big Ten/ACC Challenge
when: 6 p.m., Friday Nov. 30
where: Blacksburg, Va.

“I think rebounding is one of our strengths,” coach Pam Borton said. “I think that was a big positive for us in this game, and probably one of the only positives. We shot 19 for 57 in the paint, that’s not going to be good enough this season.”

The game was a competitive one in the early stages, as Minnesota trailed by just a point at 18-19 with eight minutes and 30 seconds left in the first half, but North Dakota broke free with an 8-0 run to lead 18-27 with seven minutes until halftime.

Junior guard Emily Fox ended the scoring drought for Minnesota, knocking down a three-pointer and a short-jumper to bring the Gophers to within four, and Minnesota fought back with 14 offensive rebounds to finally take a 31-30 lead with under a minute remaining. The Bison sank a three to retake the lead in the last minute, and at the half led 33-31.

The Gophers (5-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) had no answer for senior guard Emily Moran, who shot an impressive 7 for 9, including 3 for 4 from beyond the three-point arc, to put up 17 points in the first half alone.

Minnesota sophomore forward Korinne Campbell was the closest at eight points, while sophomore forward Ashley Ellis-Milan racked up seven points and eight rebounds.

Perhaps the Gophers’ most disappointing statistic from the half was not on the scoreboard, but was instead Fox’s inability to complete the half without picking up her third foul. Minnesota’s top scorer has been in foul trouble all season long, taking quality minutes away from the Gophers’ most potent offensive lineup.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Fox said. “I’ve been making some dumb fouls, and I’ll have to play a lot smarter if I want to stay in the game.”

Minnesota broke free in the second half, using its ability to create quick points with its defense to establish a 46-39 lead early in the second half.

The Gophers forced 14 turnovers, and Fox contributed 13 points as Minnesota expanded the lead to 61-47 with seven minutes remaining.

North Dakota State (1-2, 0-0 Summit League) tried to stay in the game with continued hot shooting.

The Bison nabbed 11 points from Moran and pulled to within two at 67-65 with 20 seconds remaining, but Campbell knocked down the free throw to secure Minnesota’s fifth consecutive win.

Fox scored 16 to lead the Gophers, while Ellis-Milan added 15 and grabbed a career-high 15 boards, including nine offensive rebounds. Campbell finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.

Ellis-Milan said the team wasn’t quite happy with the way the game went, but she was still pleased with the 5-0 start.

“Heck yeah, five and O feels pretty good,” she said. “We just have to win prettier, we’re not winning pretty. Five and O, we’ll take it, but we still need to improve in a lot of areas.”