Experience fails against Indiana in quarters

Minnesota had a poor performance from most of its upperclassmen.

Emily Wickstrom

Minnesota’s women’s basketball coach Pam Borton stressed last week that the Gophers’ veterans would be key factors as the team approached postseason play.

“Nothing can replace experience,” Borton said prior to the Big Ten Tournament.

And going into March, Borton had reason for optimism.

Minnesota, with a roster of nine juniors and seniors accustomed to playing at least until the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, has postseason experience any opposing coach would love to have.

But while the Gophers’ veterans were definite factors in the team’s third-place finish in the regular season, they struggled at the Big Ten Tournament.

In Minnesota’s loss to Indiana on Friday, upperclassmen accounted for 18 of the 20 Minnesota turnovers.

And with the exception of Shannon Schonrock, who did her part hitting three three-pointers, the Gophers senior guards did little on the offensive end, scoring a combined 12 points.

“That was the most disappointing thing,” Borton said. “That you’ve got juniors and seniors out there that were making those Ö types of decisions and turnovers.”

Indiana looked like the more prepared, confident and experienced team, taking a page out of the Gophers’ playbook with balanced scoring and stifling defense.

“The tougher team and the team that wanted it the most won tonight, and we have to give Indiana credit for that,” Schonrock said. “It was very disappointing how we lost.”

Minnesota, a team that two months ago looked poised to make a fourth-consecutive deep NCAA Tournament run now might be lucky to get out of the first round.

The Gophers have lost five of their last seven games by an average of almost 20 points, with Friday’s game perhaps the worst performance of the streak.

“We beat ourselves,” Borton said.

“We were turning the ball over with travels or stepping on the baseline.”

Borton still said she thinks postseason success is possible, calling Minnesota a potential Cinderella team, but the Gophers will have to figure things out quick.

“We’re going to have the best two weeks of practices these next two weeks,” Borton said. “Everybody’s going to have to be extremely committed mentally and physically to get ourselves headed in the right direction.”