Gophers force 35 turnovers, demolish Bison

Minnesota was led by freshman guard Leah Cotton who had 15 points off the bench.

by Aleutian Calabay

It wasnâÄôt a pretty game by any means, but the Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball took care of business Tuesday night, beating North Dakota State 65-37. After looking like the Gophers (4-1) had put their shooting woes behind them by shooting .500 or better in their last two games, Minnesota once again struggled from the field, shooting just .288 on the night. But the Gophers defense made up for the lack of offensive consistency to give Minnesota a solid win. Minnesota forced the Bison into 35 turnovers, nearly as many points as North Dakota State scored. The Gophers collected 19 steals as they limited the Bison (1-3) to just 35 shots on goal and held them to a .314 shooting percentage. âÄúWeâÄôll take this game and put it in the win column,âÄù Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. âÄúItâÄôs our third game in four days, and itâÄôs nice to end this game with a 30-point win and not feel overly pleased.âÄù With almost the entire Minnesota starting lineup struggling to score points, it was the GophersâÄô bench that stepped up and led the team to victory. Freshman Leah Cotton came in to score a game-high 15 points for Minnesota. Junior China Antoine gave the entire offense a spark with several key plays as she scored 10 points and grabbed four steals. Senior Zoe Harper came in as an enforcer in the post with 8 points and nine rebounds, including six on the offense end. âÄúWe have to rely on our bench if weâÄôre going to go anywhere this year,âÄù Borton said. âÄúThatâÄôs what is going to continue making us a great team. Players are going to struggle from one night to the next, and itâÄôs not going to be somebodyâÄôs night. But when we have these three [Cotton, Antoine and Harper] coming off the bench and they make us a better basketball team, itâÄôs a nice thing to have.âÄù Both teams came out ice cold shooting the ball to start the game. Minnesota began 0-8 from the field before a Kiara Buford layup ended the drought, more than five minutes into the game. The Bison had an 11-3 run late in the first half, and back to back 3-pointers early in the second half brought North Dakota State to within four at 33-29. Antoine answered back with a 3-pointer of her own on the ensuing possession, sparking Minnesota to an 18-0 run in which the Gophers took full control of the game with a 51-29 lead. While there may be only a few positives to take away, this 28-point win certainly shows the ability of the GophersâÄô bench to come in and be a deciding factor. âÄúI feel like IâÄôm supposed to bring the energy off the bench,âÄù Cotton said. âÄúWhen everybody is having fun, the game goes smoother, and weâÄôre more productive in that sense.âÄù The Gophers now head to Grand Island, Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam over Thanksgiving weekend. They play TCU on Friday at 10 p.m. and then will face either Kansas or Xavier on Saturday at a time to be determined.