Things go

Jim Schortemeyer

When it comes to the Minnesota women’s basketball team, things usually go from bad to worse.
So when the plane carrying the Gophers was unable to land at the airport near State College, Pa., on Saturday because a plane had slid off the runway and got stuck in the mud, it shouldn’t have surprised anybody.
The weekend didn’t get any better for the Gophers, who lost to Penn State 88-56 on Sunday after a 79-62 home loss to Iowa on Friday.
Minnesota (7-17 overall, 2-12 in the Big Ten) is stuck in a seven-game losing streak and coach Cheryl Littlejohn is trying anything to get her team out of its four-year slump.
Littlejohn employed an almost entirely new lineup for the women’s basketball team this weekend, but the four new starters didn’t offer much in the way of improvement.
In fact, the loss to the Lions (19-6, 11-4) was flat-out ugly.
With some of their best rebounders on the bench, Minnesota was killed on the boards. The Gophers were outrebounded 44-28 and the Lions had 17 offensive rebounds to help their cause.
As with most of the Gophers’ games, they were close at halftime, down just 35-28. Then No. 15 Penn State started playing for real. The Lions went on a 17-2 run at the start of the second half, which became a 35-13 run, which became a 44-16 run.
While Penn State shot 48 percent in the second half, the Gophers shot just 26 percent.
Despite their struggles, the usual starters didn’t see much playing time over the weekend. Senior Sonja Robinson was the only regular to play more than 20 minutes in either game. Robinson, the team leader in points and rebounds, scored just seven points against Penn State and had four rebounds.
Freshman Cassie VanderHeyden picked up some of the slack, scoring 17 points against the Lions and a career-high 24 against the Hawkeyes.
The game against Iowa (11-13, 6-8) was typical of most of Minnesota’s Big Ten efforts. While the game was close for a while, Iowa finished the first half with a 12-2 run to go up 38-26. The Hawkeyes led in double figures the rest of the way.
Iowa’s win came thanks to a great game from Iowa’s starters. Four Hawkeyes starters played 32 minutes or more, and all but one of them scored in double figures.
“It’s amazing that we had five in double-figures,” said Iowa coach Angie Lee. “This was one of the best team efforts of the season.”
While it was one of the Hawkeyes’ best weekends, it was one of the Gophers’ worst. The 32-point loss to Penn State is the worst of the season. Minnesota is now on a seven-game losing streak and it hasn’t been within single digits of any opponent during that streak.
The Gophers have just two games left on the schedule, and chances of stopping the slide are slim. Minnesota will host second-ranked Purdue Friday. The Boilermakers haven’t lost a game since Nov. 22.
Minnesota will put a merciful end to the regular season Sunday against Wisconsin.