Regular season ends for hoops

by Mark Heller

After Sunday’s loss to Wisconsin, the three seniors on the Gophers women’s basketball team all limped around with ice bags strapped to their knees.
The ice probably helped numb the pain from the game, but it probably won’t help numb the pains of what’s been a very long season.
Minnesota dropped two more games this weekend, losing a thriller to second-ranked Purdue on Friday, and then losing 69-56 to Wisconsin on Sunday in their home finale.
The Gophers have now lost 10 consecutive games, finishing the regular season 7-19 overall, 2-14 in the Big Ten.
“It was a special day and very emotional day,” Gophers coach Cheryl Littlejohn said, referring to the three seniors — Mindy Hansen, Sonja Robinson and Swantreca Taylor — who played their last home game. “But what I saw on Friday I expected to see tonight. The first half was a disappointment.”
In what has been a constant throughout the season, the Gophers fell behind early and couldn’t catch up.
Minnesota shot 1-for-12 from the field in the first eight minutes of the game, quickly falling behind 12-2. Wisconsin took a 37-21 into halftime, thanks in large part to the Gophers’ 26 percent shooting.
But the real numbing part occurred with just under eight minutes left in the half.
Freshman guard Cassie VanderHeyden ran out to guard a Wisconsin player when her right knee collapsed. She immediately began screaming in pain and was carried off the court. VanderHeyden returned to the bench in the second half wearing a cast and crutches, and was taken to the hospital immediately after the game.
Although its offensive execution improved in the second half, Minnesota never made a serious threat in the second half. The Gophers closed the deficit to 13 points on a few occasions, but Wisconsin would quickly extend it back up to a more comfortable 15 or 16.
“We played very good defense and had good ball pressure,” Badgers coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said. “We also had balanced scoring (four players in double figures) and did a good job of rebounding in the first half.”
Hansen was the lone Gopher in double figures, scoring 22 points on 10-of-21 shooting. No one else had more than seven.
“I was feeling it,” Hansen said. “I don’t know how to describe it unless you’ve felt it.”
Wisconsin had four players in double figures, led by Kelley Paulus with 18 points.
The Gophers’ loss means they will be the 11th seed in the Big Ten tournament this weekend in Indianapolis against one of three teams: Michigan (one of the two conference teams they beat this year), Michigan State or Iowa.

No. 2 Purdue escaped with a win on Friday when Stephanie White-McCarty hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left in the game.
Hansen missed a desperation 30-footer at the buzzer.
The win, plus their win on Sunday over Northwestern, gives the Boilermakers 23 consecutive wins and an undefeated conference season.
Once again, Minnesota lacked a scoring touch early in the game (35 percent in the first half), but trailed by just five points at the half.
Down 49-36 early in the second half, Minnesota went on a 25-12 run over a 12-minute span. Freshman Kim Bell hit two free throws to tie the game at 61, but White-McCarty was fouled on a drive to the basket and made the free throws.
The Gophers shot 54 percent in the second half to fuel their rally, and dominated the boards, 40-27. Theresa LeCuyer led the Gophers with 13 points and seven rebounds.