No sweep for Minnesota against Penn State

The Gophers turned the ball over 21 times and shot 54 percent from the free-throw line.

Paul Cordes

A strong first half had the Minnesota women’s basketball team in good shape to sweep Penn State, but a fiery Nittany Lions squad came out in the second half to squash any hopes of a Gophers victory.

Penn State has now won 12 straight home games against Minnesota, beating the Gophers 66-57 on Thursday night.

Despite leading by as many as 10 points and taking a five-point lead at the half, Minnesota fell victim to a 16-2 run that started the minute the Nittany Lions hit the floor in the second half.

Gophers coach Pam Borton said Minnesota (14-13 overall, 6-8 Big Ten) did not come out as aggressive on defense as it was in the first half.

“The start of the second half was very indicative to the rest of the half,” she said. “We were down by six or seven very quickly, and that really hurt us down the stretch.”

Many of the Gophers’ difficulties originated from the post position, or lack there of, Thursday night.

In Minnesota’s previous outing against the Nittany Lions (13-13, 6-7), Gophers junior forward Leslie Knight and freshman center Ashley Ellis-Milan combined for 29 points.

The second time around, however, the two coalesced for just eight points and seven rebounds while turning the ball over six times.

Borton said post play was the difference in Thursday’s game, especially the lack of rebounding and boxing out, giving Penn State second and third chance opportunities.

“We didn’t have much of a post game tonight offensively or defensively,” she said. “It made our offense sputter tonight and made it very difficult for us to score.”

Adding to Minnesota’s own problems was Nittany Lions junior guard Kamela Gissendanner, who was responsible for much of the second-half damage.

Gissendanner led all scorers with 17 points and hit 3-of-4 clutch free throws at the end of the game.

Gophers freshman guard Brittany McCoy had the duty of guarding Gissendanner when Minnesota went to man-to-man defense.

“(Gissendanner’s) a great player, and I was able to get my hand on the ball a bunch in the first half,” McCoy said. “But she came out really fired up in the second half and hit a couple of key shots.”

Though Gissendanner had the hot hand in the second half, McCoy had a sly hand in the first.

McCoy’s five steals led to a lot of easy lay-ups as she scored six of Minnesota’s first eight points.

She would go on to finish with a team-high 16 points and Borton said she was a presence on both offense and defense.

“She really ignited our team with the steals and lay-ups she got,” Borton said. “She had a great game on both sides of the floor and overall she just put a great game together.”

The Gophers have no games this weekend and will be able to sort things out after a mistake-ridden game in State College, Pa.

Their 21 turnovers and a 54 percent showing from the free-throw line will be just a couple of things weighing on their minds as the regular season comes to a close. Their final home game is against Michigan next Thursday.

And after 27 games, Borton said it’s time for her team to quit making the same mistakes.

“We have to start learning from those mistakes,” she said. “It’s nothing that other teams are doing against us, it’s what we’re doing to ourselves.”