Gophers blow 16-point lead in road loss to Indiana

Minnesota fell below .500 in the conference for the first time since its opening loss.

by Paul Cordes

The Minnesota women’s basketball team gave up another double-digit lead in a crushing loss to Indiana.

The Gophers dropped below .500 in the Big Ten for the third time this season as the Hoosiers slowly picked apart Minnesota’s early 16-point lead to get the 69-65 victory.

Indiana (15-9 overall, 4-7 Big Ten) took its first lead of the game with 9:14 left in the contest and then went ahead for good at the 3:32 mark. Gophers junior guard Jordan Barnes said her team needed to be more confident in the second half.

“I think we just need to have that killer instinct,” she said. “When we get up we have to just put them away. We play with a lot of confidence when we’re going up, but we lack that confidence in the second half.

This is the second conference game in which Minnesota (13-11, 5-6) has had a big lead and lost. In its 58-56 season-opening loss to Iowa, the Gophers gave up a 17-point lead, and almost a month later they did it again as they blew a 24-point lead, but managed to escape with a 80-78 victory against the Hawkeyes in overtime.

Minnesota Junior forward Leslie Knight said the Gophers need to come out in the second half with the same intensity and energy they had when building their lead.

“We can’t come out in the second half and play not to lose, by being hesitant when we should keep attacking,” she said. “We’re pretty frustrated with ourselves because we know we can play better and it wasn’t anything Indiana did to beat us, it was what we did to beat ourselves.”

At the forefront of Minnesota’s self-determent were its 25 turnovers compared to Indiana’s 10.

Gophers coach Pam Borton said turnovers were the deciding factor Sunday afternoon.

“Those 25 turnovers are 25 potential shots we could have taken,” she said. “That is the difference in the game, bottom line.”

Turnovers did prevent Minnesota from taking shots, but more significantly, they gave the Hoosiers extra opportunities to score. Indiana had 23 points off turnovers, including several easy fast-break lay-ups and two three-pointers.

Knight said the turnovers gave Indiana way too many easy points and shifted momentum in the Hoosiers’ favor.

“They valued their possessions more than we did and they took advantage of our miscues,” she said. “All the easy lay-ups and three-pointers they hit Ö were a big momentum change and it was not pretty.”

And those momentum changes are even more catastrophic for the Gophers as their lone senior, Kelly Roysland, sits out with a broken collarbone.

Borton said with Roysland out, Minnesota is really lacking a clutch player to go out there and steal back some momentum.

“We just don’t have somebody out there like (Roysland) who can go down and hit a big shot make a big play to stop the runs,” she said. “We’ve got a young team that puts their heads down and gets nervous, but I think we’ll get through it and break through that wall.”

Barnes playing well in starting role

Though nobody has been able to duplicate Roysland’s offensive presence since her injury on Jan. 25, Barnes is certainly bringing a little something extra to the table.

Barnes, who is on the floor for her defensive prowess, has put up some impressive numbers on both sides of the ball.

In her two starts, she has a combined 13 rebounds, five of which were on the offensive end, and has scored 11 points. She only scored 12 points in the previous 22 games.

“She’s been a defensive presence for us and brings consistency and stability on the defensive end,” Borton said. “She’s now starting to step up and hit shots for us and she’s doing everything we’re asking of her and a little bit more.”