Minnesota falls to South Dakota State at the buzzer

by Mark Heise

College basketball games last 40 minutes and Minnesota’s women’s team received a rude reminder of that Sunday afternoon.

South Dakota State scored the winning basket as time expired, handing the Gophers an unexpected 59-58 loss.

“I thought we played well enough to win this basketball game today for about twelve minutes, ” coach Pam Borton said following the game. “Losing on a last-second shot is a disappointing way to end a game. “

But it wasn’t as if Minnesota hadn’t had other chances to win the game.

The Gophers (11-7 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) struggled to get the ball to their post players all night long. When they did get the ball inside, things still didn’t go Minnesota’s way, as the four forwards and centers went 8-for-20 from the floor, 8-for-15 from the free-throw line and committed 11 turnovers on the afternoon.

The guards once again were the ones keeping the Gophers in the game.

Sophomore guard Emily Fox had a solid first half and was able to use the dribble to penetrate the defense and chalked up eight points.

South Dakota State (11-5) took advantage of several open looks from three-point range, however, and opened up a 32-23 lead with just two minutes remaining in the half.

Minnesota made a late comeback, converting a 3-on-2 situation as freshman guard Brittany McCoy completed a touch pass to junior forward Leslie Knight for the layup. Knight added a free throw, helping Minnesota cut the lead to 32-29 heading into halftime.

For most of the second half, senior guard Kelly Roysland ran the show. Roysland scored 11 straight points for the Gophers, including three three-pointers, to give them their first lead since the 16-minute mark of the first half.

“I had some good looks, ” Roysland said. “In the second half Brittany McCoy did a good job of forcing help and that left me open. “

Minnesota extended the lead to a healthy seven points with five minutes remaining, but the Jackrabbits fought their way back and retook the lead 57-56 with just 1:30 left in regulation.

Gophers freshman forward Ashley Ellis-Milan gave Minnesota hope with 3.5 seconds remaining by knocking down a pair of free throws to put Minnesota up 58-57.

On the final play of the game, South Dakota State’s pass went to the baseline. Jackrabbits junior guard Andrea Verdegan drove baseline and dished the ball to freshman forward Maria Boever, who hit the open layup as the horn sounded.

The play was reviewed and following a few minutes of confusion, officials counted the basket, ending the game and shocking the crowd.

Roysland led the team with 17 points and six rebounds, while Ellis-Milan added 10 points and nine boards. Fox, McCoy and Knight each contributed eight points.

“It just wasn’t our day,” Ellis-Milan said. “Give credit to South Dakota State, they played a great game. But now we just have to get over it and prepare for the next game.”