Poor defense leads to first home loss

The Gophers lost 90-68 to a red-hot Virginia team at Williams Arena.

by Samuel Gordon

Throw Minnesota’s unblemished home record out the window.

Virginia blew out the Gophers women’s basketball team 90-68 on Thursday at Williams Arena in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Cavaliers (5-1) played a physical style of basketball that the Gophers (6-2) didn’t seem ready for.

The result was a bevy of easy baskets, both in transition and the half-court offense. Virginia capitalized on Minnesota’ poor post defense and shot nearly 59 percent from the floor.

Cavaliers guard Kelsey Wolfe led all scorers with 25 points.

“I’m not sure they could have played much better than they did,” Gophers head coach Pam Borton said. “It felt like our defense couldn’t stop anything they were doing.”

Sari Noga scored eight quick points to give Minnesota an 18-10 lead, but it didn’t last long.

“I got some wide-open shots right away,” Noga said. “They saw I was getting hot, so they definitely were right on me a little more.”

The Cavaliers tightened up defensively and took advantage of holes in Minnesota’s defense to go on a 21-5 run. They kept their foot on the gas and took a 46-34 lead into halftime.

Virginia carried its momentum into the second half and broke the game open. Every trip down the court, it seemed to find a wide-open shooter or a quality look down low.

Gophers forward-center Micaella Riche, who entered the game averaging 15 points and eight rebounds, was a non-factor. She had two points and four rebounds before fouling out with 8:51 left in the game.

“It’s just her coming out and playing more aggressive and playing smarter,” Borton said. “A lot of her fouls aren’t very smart fouls. … We need her in the game.”

Rachel Banham led Minnesota with 21 points. Noga finished with 14.

The Gophers will travel to Lawrence, Kan., for a date with No. 20 Kansas on Sunday.

“Toughness is one of the biggest things we need to work on,” Banham said. “[We’ll need] a lot of energy, especially on the road.”