Coach collars Klun because of poor play

Ryan Schuster

Junior forward Sarah Klun did not play for the Gophers women’s basketball team on Friday at Purdue or Sunday at Ohio State because of a coach’s decision by Cheryl Littlejohn.
While Littlejohn refused to specify why she allowed Klun to make the trip with the team and then decided not to play her, she said the basketball-related decision was prompted by Klun’s play in recent practices and games.
“You have got to deserve to play,” Littlejohn said. “You are going to play people who are productive. That’s what coaches usually do, right? It isn’t enough if you just want to play.”
Klun is the second Gophers player to be removed from the starting lineup and then benched the following weekend for sub-par play. Guard Kiauna Burns was stripped of her starting role before the team’s Jan. 9 game at Illinois and then did not play Jan. 18 at Northwestern.
Burns replaced center Angie Iverson in the starting lineup on Friday and then was benched again Sunday in favor of Iverson and a bigger starting lineup.
Klun hasn’t scored and has averaged only 2.5 minutes per game since Littlejohn benched her before the team’s Jan. 23 home game against Penn State. That move came on the heels of Klun’s two-point, zero rebound performance during Minnesota’s 84-65 loss at Northwestern the previous Sunday. She was averaging 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds and 12 minutes per game before last weekend.
The 6-foot post player started all 28 games for the Gophers at power forward a year ago, averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. Klun was a second-team all-state selection during her senior year at LaFollette High School in Madison, Wis., and was named one of the top 25 high school players in the state by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook.
After playing well in limited minutes her freshman year at Minnesota, Klun missed all of the 1995-96 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee suffered in a summer pickup basketball game.
“Personally I would like to be out there helping the team,” Klun said. “But I guess that’s where I’m the player and she’s the coach. Whether I’d like to be or feel I should be or not is kind of irrelevant.
“I have a lot farther to go to get into this system. If I had I would be playing right now. That’s all I can say.”
Klun said the biggest improvements she needs to make in order to return to the lineup are in rebounding and eliminating mental mistakes, two things Littlejohn has worked with her on this season.
“I didn’t decide not to play her,” Littlejohn said. “The players dictate whether they are going to play or not. You have to earn your playing time. I’m not giving anything away for free. It ain’t nothing personal — it’s all business.”

Iverson back on track
Virtually the only bright spot for the team over the weekend was the improved play of Iverson, who broke out of a 4-of-17 shooting slump over the team’s previous three games to score 23 and 16 points in the team’s two losses.
“The past few games that I hadn’t been playing too well I think that I was concentrating too much on what other people are saying and outside influences,” Iverson said. “I’ve just come in with the mind frame that I need to start playing better. I’ve just got to play. I don’t have much time left to worry about what other people are saying.”

Did you know?
The city of Columbus, Ohio (home of Ohio State, which played the Gophers on Sunday) has a population of 615,000, almost twice the size of Minneapolis (370,000). Meanwhile, West Lafayette, Ind., the home of Purdue, which played the Gophers on Friday, has a population of 21,247 — 1,300 less than the enrollment at Purdue.

Back door cuts
ù Out of the 21 freshman division I women’s basketball players that came out of the state last year, only Anoka’s Theresa LeCuyer chose Minnesota. There are also currently eight Minnesota natives on the other 10 Big Ten teams, compared to only six Minnesotans on the Gophers’ 14-person roster.
ù Minnesota (4-17 overall, 1-10 Big Ten) ranks last in the conference in scoring offense, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists, blocked shots and turnovers.
ù The Gophers have been outscored 745-590 in the first half of games, trailing their opponents by an average score of 36-28 at halftime. That’s compared to an 801-717 deficit in the second half, or an average deficit of 38-34 through 21 games this season.