Sluggish start sinks Minnesota in S.C.

Emily Wickstrom

This was not the way Minnesota’s women’s basketball team wanted its last road game before the start of the Big Ten season to go.

The Gophers (6-2) were soundly beat 79-61 by South Carolina on Tuesday in Columbia, S.C., on a night when almost nothing seemed to go right.

The Gamecocks (3-3) jumped out to a quick 13-2 lead in the game’s opening minutes, as Minnesota made just one of nine field goal attempts.

“We started out slow and we really didn’t recover,” junior forward Liz Podominick said. “We worked hard… but it was almost too late.”

The Gophers continued to struggle from the floor throughout the first half, as they shot an abnormally low 28.6 percent from the field and trailed 39-21 at halftime.

Although the teams played evenly in the second half, Minnesota was never able to get into an offensive rhythm, and got no closer than 16 points.

One major problem, coach Pam Borton said, was the Gophers lack of scoring in the paint.

Of their four primary post players, only Podominick was able to produce offensively.

Podominick led Minnesota with 21 points in shooting six for seven from the floor and getting to the free throw line consistently.

“Liz played extremely tough, and she was one of the players on our team that played physically and mentally tough for us,” Borton said.

Starters Jamie Broback and Natasha Williams combined for just four points.

Part of the problem may have been the size of South Carolina’s frontcourt, which boasts five players 6 feet, 3 inches or taller.

“We let their size be a factor inside,” Borton said.

One bright spot for the Gophers was reserve senior guard Katie Alsdurf, who played 24 minutes and scored 16 points, a personal high in her time at Minnesota.

South Carolina had four players in double figures, led by Shannel Harris and Lea Fabbri with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

So far this season, Minnesota has struggled mightily on the road, with the Gophers only other loss being a 62-44 defeat at New Mexico.

“It’s easy to play at home,” Borton said. “We need to start games a lot more consistent and a lot stronger and be able to give our kids a chance to win the game.”