Teams that live and die by the 3-point shot tend to salivate at the sight of a zone defense. Spread the floor here, set a pick there, and an open shot from behind the arc is sure to follow.
Because of their short bench, the Gophers have been forced to run the zone defense for most of the season, with sporadic success. But in games against Ohio State and Northwestern over the weekend, Minnesota got schooled. There’s really no other way to put it.
Ohio State’s Marcie Alberts had 12 points on Friday, all from the perimeter, helping her team to a 84-61 win. Then Northwestern uncorked 13 three-pointers against the Gophers on Sunday on its way to a 91-84 win.
The Wildcats’ proficiency with the 3-pointer (13-of-27) tied their own Big Ten record, set in the Wildcats’ season opener against Illinois-Chicago.
“We knew (Northwestern was) a 3-point shooting team, and we knew we had to stop it,” center Angie Iverson said. “But they were unbelievable. I’ve never seen a team shoot that well from 3-point range.”
Forward Kristina Divjak was 6-for-9 from behind the line and guard Megan Chawansky was 5-for-8. Meanwhile, Michele Ratay — to whom the Wildcats normally look to put up such crazy numbers — was a mere 2-for-9.
Those three players alone combined for 70 of Northwestern’s 90 points.
Several Wildcats confessed they were surprised that Minnesota stayed in the zone for so long, allowing repeated open shots from all over the court.
Northwestern coach Don Perrelli said it was simply a hot day for his team. “We made their zone look not so good,” he said. “But if we’re missing the shots and they’re getting the rebounds, then the zone looks pretty good.
“That’s a big part of their defense, and they do it well.”
Perhaps, but not well enough. On a day when the Gophers posted a season-low 11 turnovers (13 below the team average) and shot a season-high 48 percent from the field, the Wildcats were still too much.
But Gophers coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said her defensive options were limited.
“We can’t go 40 minutes player-to-player,” she said, “or we lose players for practice. There weren’t any surprises out there, we just didn’t do a good job covering the 3-pointer.”
Iverson was big in the middle once again, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds — her 10th double-double of the season. Guard Mindy Hansen, who started her second straight game on the bench, was equally effective.
Just as she did Friday at Ohio State, Hansen came into the game and led the Gophers in scoring, with 24 points against Northwestern on 10-of-16 shooting. “We thought we had a good read on her,” Perrelli said. “But she came out and showed us that a lot of teams shoot well against Northwestern. She got comfortable and looked good today.”
The Gophers were neither comfortable nor good on Friday, when they were handed a 23-point drubbing by Ohio State.
Minnesota was out-rebounded 44-29 in the game and gave up 24 turnovers. The two weekend losses pushed the Gophers’ Big Ten losing streak to 29. And things won’t get any easier next weekend, when the team plays at No. 25 Penn State on Friday before heading to Madison, Wis., to face No. 14 Wisconsin.
FRIDAY’S SUMMARYGophers 26 35 — 61Ohio State 42 42 — 84
SCORING: Robinson 2-4 2-3 6, Klun 4-10 4-4 12, Iverson 3-4 2-3 8, Ellis 0-3 0-0 0, Burns 2-7 0-0 4, Hansen 8-15 2-2 18, Hass 3-8 0-1 7, Seago 3-5 0-0 6, Blom 0-0 0-0 0, O’Hearn 0-0 0-0 0.
REBOUNDING: Robinson 5, Klun 6, Iverson 5, Ellis 0, Burns 1, Hansen 2, Hass 3, Seago 3, Blom 0, O’Hearn 0.
A — 3,835.
SUNDAY’S SUMMARYNorthwestern 49 42 — 91Gophers 39 45 — 84
SCORING: Robinson 4-10 0-0 8, Klun 1-3 0-0 2, Iverson 6-10 7-9 19, Ellis 2-3 0-0 5, Burns 4-13 1-6 10, Hass 4-11 2-2 10, Hansen 10-16 2-3 24, Seago 3-5 0-0 6.
REBOUNDING: Robinson 2, Klun 5, Iverson 14, Ellis 1, Burns 2, Hass 4, Hansen 1 Seago 4.
A — 2,122.