Blevins shines, but not bright enough for U to beat Michigan

Jim Schortemeyer

The Minnesota women’s basketball team lost its sixth straight game on Sunday, an 88-65 setback to Michigan, but some small rays of light shone through an otherwise woeful performance.
The suddenly strong play of freshman Antoinetta Blevins was on display against the Wolverines. Blevins had 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds to lead the Gophers (7-15 overall, 2-10 in the Big Ten) in all categories.
“It gives a glimpse of what type of game we’re pushing for,” coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “You’ve got to have players ready for the ball, because you never know when that pass is going to come.”
Blevins hit 3-of-4 from three-point range, did a nice job spotting open teammates and hit a pair of running layups. She ran an up-tempo offense and looked like a leader.
Blevins had 13 points against Northwestern last week after sitting out Minnesota’s first four Big Ten games. Blevins admitted to being in a slump earlier in the season.
“I was on a roller coaster,” she said of her early season performance. “Some times I showed up and some times I didn’t. Lately I’ve been working more in practice.”
Littlejohn hinted that Blevins had some attitude problems as well.
“She stated, ‘I’m a gamer’ and felt she didn’t need to work hard in practice,” Littlejohn said. “Yes, it’s late. But better late than never.”
Other signs of promise came with the solid play of junior Moneeke Bowden and freshman Jackie Tate, who each had 12 points and figure to be key to next year’s team.
But even would-be stars couldn’t make up for 28 Minnesota turnovers.
“The most important thing is that this was a 23-point game and they had how many of those off our turnovers?” Littlejohn asked.
Meanwhile, Michigan played one of its better games of the year to make up for a 54-47 loss to the Gophers on Jan. 10.
“I’ll be honest,” Wolverines coach Sue Guevara said. “We shot 21 percent in that first game, so we put in a new zone offense for tonight and it really worked well.”
That offense worked especially well in the first half, when Michigan shot more than 60 percent from the floor. Five Wolverines scored in double digits in the 23-point drubbing, a far cry from their last performance against the Gophers.
“I know the kids felt we had something to prove,” Guevera said. “This is about showing who the real Michigan is.”
The real Minnesota was far less impressive. The starters were outscored by the bench 35-30, and none of the Gophers’ lineup combinations seemed able to slow the Wolverines.
The loss solidified Minnesota’s spot at the bottom of the Big Ten, with very little help in sight. The Gophers play at eighth-place Iowa on Friday, which might be their lone chance at a win with games against first-place Purdue and second-place Penn State left on the schedule.
Minnesota’s forays into the win column could be over for the season. Even Littlejohn sounded like she was looking beyond this year, perhaps as a distraction from this season.
“We’re building. The team is eventually going to be there,” Littlejohn said. “I’m being patient, but I can see progress.”