Home is no place like road for women’s hoops

Jim Schortemeyer

While the Minnesota women’s basketball team is better than any in recent memory, it’s still searching for mediocrity.
The Gophers (7-10, 2-5 in Big Ten) have already achieved more than in any of the past two seasons, but showed how far they have yet to go in Sunday’s 80-66 loss to Indiana (13-8, 2-5).
Minnesota was coming off an encouraging 70-68 road win against Northwestern on Friday before the wheels came off Sunday afternoon.
At least the game started on a positive note. Freshman center Kim Bell hit a nice hook shot to get Minnesota on the board first. Then Indiana went on a 25-4 run.
“Obviously, I think all of us are disappointed,” Littlejohn said. “We can’t keep putting ourselves in positions where we have to come from behind.”
The Gophers were in that position thanks to horrendous shooting. Ten minutes into the half their shooting percentage was 13 percent — they finished the half at 25 percent and down 37-20.
But it was a different story in the second half. For a few minutes, anyway.
Junior Brandi Harris caught fire in the second half to carry the Gophers back into the game. Minnesota made a 20-6 run on the strength of Harris’ 20 second-half points. That brought the score to 43-40.
Then the Gophers reverted to their first-half form. Bad shooting and some shaky defense allowed the Hoosiers to hit four three-pointers in the second half and pull away.
“Minnesota did a good job of making a run and we did a good job of responding,” Indiana coach Jim Izard said.
The Gophers finished the game at 37 percent from the floor. The 35 minutes of poor play left Minnesota obviously disappointed in their showing.
“It was frustrating because we’d dig a hole, climb out and then dig ourselves another hole,” Gophers forward Sonja Robinson said. “At that time we needed to turn it up even higher and take control of the game.”
Instead, the Hoosiers got a fairly easy road win, thanks to good shooting and poor Minnesota defense.
Coming into the game, Minnesota’s defense was averaging 63.8 points per game. The Hoosiers shot 48.3 percent from the field and went 10 of 15 from three-point land. Indiana’s 80 points are the most the Gophers have allowed this season.
After the game, Littlejohn and the Gophers knew where their mistakes were made.
“Transition defense and containing penetration were the two things we talked about,” Littlejohn said. “Those were two of our major breakdowns.”
Littlejohn said the loss was typical of Minnesota’s performances at home. The Gophers have won just one Big Ten home game in the last three years and are 0-11 at the Sports Pavilion under Littlejohn.
“We’ve been doing well on the road,” Littlejohn said. “Maybe I should schedule all our conference games on the road.”
The road was no place like home for the Gophers, who got their second consecutive road win on Friday, 70-68 over Northwestern. The win came thanks to a late 10-4 run, and Minnesota forcing the Wildcats to miss on their final possession to lock up the win.
The effort against Northwestern is evidence of the struggles of a young program. While they’re able to play well for stretches, they lose focus quickly.
“I just think we have to be more consistent and take a lot of pride,” Robinson said.
Minnesota is now tied for last in the conference with Indiana. The Gophers will be at Michigan State (9-8, 3-3) on Friday.