Same old, same old for Gophers women

Aaron Kirscht

While most of the state of Wisconsin was busy bathing in cheese fondue and consuming a slew of Pabst in “preparation” for the Super Bowl, the No. 16 Badgers women’s basketball team was busy beating up the Gophers on Sunday.
The image of an inebriated, body-painted Packers fan is hard to handle, but the Gophers’ performance was no less ugly. Wisconsin used an early 10-0 run to put the game away and cruised to an easy 84-57 victory.
Along with an 83-62 loss at Penn State on Friday, the Gophers fell to 2-17 overall, 0-9 in the Big Ten.
Familiar demons plagued the Gophers over the weekend: sloppy play and a stumbling defense.
Wisconsin’s pressure defense gave the Gophers fits, forcing 30 turnovers, 18 in the decisive first half.
“A lot of those were unforced turnovers,” said coach Linda Hill-MacDonald. “If we pass the ball to a defender, she’ll generally catch the ball and take it the other way. We did a lot of that today.”
Wisconsin had 21 steals and scored 40 points off Gophers miscues.
The Badgers’ big guns, point guard Keisha Anderson and forward Ann Klapperich, were their usual dominant selves. Anderson scored 10 points and was adept at penetrating the Gophers defense and making the key pass, while Klapperich lit up the Gophers for 17 points.
But Wisconsin was carried — in the first half, anyway — by unsung Amy Wiersma. The 6-foot-5-inch sophomore center made her living on the offensive boards, routinely putting them back for baskets and drawing fouls.
Wiersma finished with a game-high 17 points (tied with Klapperich) and nine rebounds, and eclipsed her career high in both categories in the first half alone.
“Her shooting percentage has been very low, but we stressed that if you give her layups her shooting will go up,” Hill-MacDonald said. “Everything she scored was in the paint off of offensive boards. Anybody’s going to score on those. That’s the easiest shot in the game.”
Forward Lynda Hass was a ray of light for Minnesota, leading the team with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Angie Iverson had 12 points, but managed only 5 rebounds and got into foul trouble early in the second half.
Wisconsin’s rebounding advantage — 52-32 — was the biggest for a Gophers opponent this season. The Badgers had an incredible 31 offensive rebounds to the Gophers’ eight, and converted them for 31 points.
“It’s just a lack of execution,” Hill-MacDonald said. “We’ve worked on this every single day in practice since October 15.
“How do you explain that? I can’t explain that. It’s a mystery to me.”
But any good mystery involves a few quirky plot twists and a surprise ending. In nearly every game this season, the Gophers have been retelling the same story with the same results.
That was certainly the case on Friday, as Minnesota was whipped by 21 points at Penn State.
Too many turnovers. Shoddy shooting. Invisible interior defense. Another loss.
The Gophers are a team in search of not only a streak-breaking win, but also a few highlights here and there. They’ve been slow in coming.
“It gets old after a while,” Hill-MacDonald said, “not winning and not playing well, not even well enough to be in a game. But they’re hanging in there. I’m hanging in there. It’s my job to keep them up, keep them going and get ready for the next one.”

SCORING SUMMARIES

FRIDAY’S GAME
Gophers 26 36 — 62
Penn State 38 45 — 83

SCORING: Robinson 3-4 2-2 8, Klun 6-15 4-4 18, Iverson 3-14 8-11 14, Ellis 1-1 0-0 2, Burns 1-5 1-2 3, Hansen 5-12 2-2 13, Hass 1-3 0-0 2, Seago 1-2 0-0 2, O’Hearn 0-0 0-0 0, Strommen 0-0 0-0 0.
REBOUNDS: Robinson 5, Klun 5, Iverson 14, Ellis 1, Burns 1, Hansen 7, Hass 0, Seago 0, O’Hearn 0, Strommen 1.
A — 5,646.

SUNDAY’S GAME
Gophers 27 30 — 57
No. 16 Wisconsin 48 36 — 84

SCORING: Robinson 2-6 0-0 4, Klun 3-8 4-5 10, Iverson 4-8 4-5 12, Ellis 1-4 0-0 2, Burns 2-5 0-0 4, Blom 0-0 0-0 0, Nonginthirath 1-2 0-0 2, Hass 5-7 5-6 16, O’Hearn 0-0 0-0 0, Seago 1-2 0-0 4, Strommen 0-0 0-0 0, Hansen 2-4 1-2 5.
REBOUNDS: Robinson 2, Klun 7, Iverson 5, Ellis 0, Burns 3, Blom 0, Nonginthirath 0, Hass 2, O’Hearn 0, Seago 1, Strommen 1, Hansen 2.
A — 7,260.