Fox, Gophers continue to roll; complete sweep of Michigan State

Mark Heise

Thursday night, senior forward Leslie Knight carried the Minnesota women’s basketball team to a win. But on Sunday afternoon, it was all about Emily Fox.

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what: Women’s basketball
when: 6 p.m., Thursday
where: West Lafayette, Ind.

The junior guard scored a team-high 29 points, including a 6-6 effort from the free throw line in the final three minutes, to lead the Gophers to an 81-69 win over Michigan State at Williams Arena to finish the week with two big wins.

“I felt like we gained a lot of confidence from that Ohio State game,” Fox said. “But we didn’t want be to high on that game, and I thought we came in and picked up another big win.”

The Gophers’ ability to hit a high percentage of shots was an important part to their success in the first half, as Minnesota out-shot Michigan State 48 percent to 23 percent en route to a 14-point half-time lead.

Fox jumped out of the gates strong, hitting six of eight shots in the first half, and scoring the Gophers’ first seven points. She ran into foul trouble soon after however, costing her minutes on the floor and sending Minnesota into a zone defense for part of the half.

The Spartan’s offense was in shambles through the first 12 minutes of the game, as they unsuccessfully ran a flex offense against a stifling Gophers’ defense.

Michigan State (10-12 overall, 4-6 Big Ten) shot 19 percent from the field through the first 12 minutes, only managing to close in on Minnesota (15-6, 6-3) through turnovers caused by the Gophers’ sloppy passing over a two-minute span late in the half.

Fox led all scorers with 16 points in the half, while sophomore forward Ashley Ellis-Milan took advantage of offensive rebounds and dump passes to tally eight. Spartans’ sophomore center Lauren Aitch led her team with seven points on 2-7 shooting, as Michigan State went to the locker room with a 24-38 deficit.

“That was probably one of the best halves of defense we’ve played all season,” coach Pam Borton said. “We made them take difficult shots, but we knew that Michigan State was going to make a run in the second half, so we had to come out and hold the fort down.”

Sophomore guard Katie Ohm came alive in the second half, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring eleven second-half points to allow Minnesota to balloon the lead out to as much as 20 points with 15:30 remaining.

Ohm, starting in just her second game of the year, said she felt comfortable in her new role.

“I’m used to coming into the game off the bench,” she said. “But after my second start, I was a lot more comfortable today. It really felt good to be in the starting lineup.”

But sloppy entry passes to the posts continued to cause problems for the Gophers in the second half, as they committed nine of 23 turnovers in the second half to help keep Michigan State in the game.

The Spartans took advantage of this, as senior guard Courtney Davidson and sophomore guard Mandy Piechowski combined to drain five shots from beyond the three-point arc, cutting the Gophers’ lead to just six with 1:40 remaining.

But Fox continued her leadership in the second half, as she added 13 points to her total, including six straight free throws to seal the win.

With four players scoring in double digits, the Gophers proved to have a variety of offensive threats, but the largest concern in Minnesota’s offense was its struggles to enter the ball to its post players.

“We as guards have to take responsibility for getting the ball to posts in good position,” Fox said. “I think it was kind of a snowball effect today. We had three or four turnovers in a row, but we managed to get it under control.”