Another women’s basketball comeback falls short

On Super Bowl Sunday, the Gophers women’s basketball team only had one game on its mind.

Minnesota looked to bounce back after Thursday’s loss to Purdue with a victory against Illinois at the Sports Pavilion. Despite a hard-fought game, the Gophers fell short in the end, 88-81.

“We’re disappointed with the loss but a lot of good things came out that I’m proud of this team about,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Littlejohn said.

It was an intense and physical game throughout, and both teams lost a player for the game due to injury.

With 7:38 left in the first half, Aminata Yanni went down with a knee injury for Illinois. Five minutes later, Megan Kane was hit in the face with an elbow and did not return to the game.

“It was more physical,” sophomore guard Lindsay Lieser said. “but it’s also nice that way because it keeps the flow of the game going.”

Illinois struck first in the game, gaining a 12 point advantage mid-way through the first half. Minnesota cut the lead to eight, but Anne O’Neil hit a shot as the horn sounded to give Illinois a 10-point advantage going into halftime.

“Most of our turnovers came in the first half, and they [Illinois] capitalized on four of them, two of them being three-point plays,” Littlejohn said. “Those are the breakdowns that obviously gave them a cushion.”

The Gophers traded baskets with Illinois to start the second half, but caught fire around the ten-minute mark. Lindsay Lieser tied a career- high with seven three-point baskets, four of which she hit in the final ten minutes of the game.

However, every time Minnesota got close, Illinois hit a clutch shot or forced a turnover to stay in the lead. The Gophers cut the lead to three points with 7:38 left in the second half, but never got any closer.

Rebounding was the biggest problem for Minnesota, as they gave up 16 second-chance points to the Illini.

The two Lindsay’s led the way for the Gophers. Lindsay Whalen scored 26 points and Lieser added 21. Ozlem Piroglu posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 assists.

“Overall, I’m pleased with the effort, they worked hard … We’re gonna be there,” Littlejohn said.

Minnesota plays its next three games on the road, then returns to the Sports Pavilion on February 11th to face Iowa.