Gophers blown out by Penn State to end regular season

Minnesota finished 8th in the conference with a 6-10 record.

by Betsy Helfand

The Gophers were blown out for a second consecutive game Sunday, losing 74-51 to No. 11 Penn State in University Park, Pa.

The two teams faced off earlier this year at Williams Arena, and the Lady Lions won by three points in a game that just got away from Minnesota.

This time, Minnesota never appeared to be in the game. Penn State, the Big Ten regular season champions, got off to a quick start and never relinquished its lead.

The Lady Lions used early 10-0 and 13-0 runs to take a 39-17 lead at halftime.

“I think they got a lot [of points] in transition early. … I think we stayed pretty even with them in the second half, but I think the first half really hurt us,” Kiara Buford said on the Learfield Sports postgame show.

Penn State led by nearly 30 points the rest of the way. The Lady Lions had a 33-point lead at one point in the second half.

Minnesota struggled from the field all day. It shot just 21-for-59 (36 percent) to Penn State’s 28-for-62 (45 percent).

“When you simplify things, it was seven baskets. The 20-plus missed layups that we missed around the rim — if we make seven of those, we have a chance to win this game,” head coach Pam Borton said on the postgame show.

Rachel Banham, normally the picture of consistency, struggled from the field and on the free-throw line. She shot just 5-of-13 from the field and missed all four of her free-throw attempts.

Banham almost snapped her  double-digit scoring streak, but a basket with six seconds left pushed her to 10 points and extended the streak to 26 games.

Buford led the Gophers in scoring with 11 points. Micaëlla Riché also pitched in 10 points.

Riché started her first career game for the Gophers after recording career-highs in points and rebounds in the Gophers’ 81-56 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 23.

Katie Loberg, the team’s leading rebounder, did not play Sunday.

A tweet sent from the official women’s basketball Twitter feed (@GophersWBB) wrote to a fan that Loberg sprained her ankle against Ohio State on Feb. 23.

Despite Loberg’s absence, the Gophers out-rebounded Penn State 40-37. 

Brianna Mastey led the team with nine rebounds, while Riché had seven.

Minnesota turned the ball over 17 times to Penn State’s eight. One beneficiary of that was Maggie Lucas, who led all scorers with 24 points for the Lady Lions.

Minnesota went on a run near the end of the game, and it scored just one fewer point than Penn State in the second half.

“They had a lot of their starters in near the end of this game, and I think we have to take something positive from this game,” Borton said on the postgame show.

The Gophers had already cemented their place in the Big Ten before the game. They finished the season eighth in Big Ten standings and will play their Wisconsin to open the Big Ten tournament at 5 p.m. on Thursday.