Minnesota no match for Ohio State on the road

The winless streak continued in Ohio for the Minnesota women’s basketball team Sunday.

The Gophers lost on the Buckeyes’ home court for the 23rd-straight time, combining a lackluster offense with a sluggish defensive attack to hand Ohio State a 76-62 win.

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what: Women’s basketball
when: 7 p.m., Thursday
where: Williams Arena

Minnesota (15-8 overall, 6-5 Big Ten) played poor offense in the first half, and despite improving that in the second half, couldn’t make a comeback because of a lack of second-half defense.

“They definitely were playing more physical than we were, and that was a factor,” sophomore center Zoe Harper said. “We were in it in the first half, but in the second half they knocked down some shots, and we didn’t have an answer.”

Leading by as much as six points early on, the Gophers managed to fall behind quickly, doing a poor job of taking care of the ball while shooting 39 percent from the floor in the first half.

Minnesota combined its inability to find a quality shot with 11 first-half turnovers which translated into 16 points for Ohio State, pushing the Buckeyes out to a 28-19 lead.

Ohio State guard Maria Moeller knocked down a pair of wide-open three-pointers and the Buckeyes shot 44 percent from the field to head into halftime with a 32-17 lead.

Senior forward Leslie Knight and sophomore guard Brittany McCoy scored six points apiece in an effort to keep the game close, but it turned out to be the Gophers’ ability to out-rebound Ohio State 22-15 in the first half that allowed Minnesota to trail by just five halfway through the game.

“The one positive would be that we out-rebounded them,” Knight said. “But other than that, I don’t know that there were that many other positives.”

Senior guard Marscilla Packer provided the Buckeyes with the spark needed to put away Minnesota early in the second half. After being pulled from the starting lineup in a surprise move, Packer responded from the bench with 14 second-half points, including three 3-pointers.

Ohio State (17-5, 8-3) improved their field goal percentage to 55.2 on the game, and made use of a 21-3 run to all but put the game away with five minutes remaining.

“Whatever defensive scheme we threw at them, they just picked it apart,” coach Pam Borton said. “I felt like we never could get it together and get everybody on the same page defensively. They were scoring at will at some points during the game.”

One big positive for Minnesota however, was the increased production from Harper at the post position. Coming off of the bench, Harper shot 5-of-8 from the field for 13 points, and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead all players.

Harper was averaging only 1.4 points per game in conference play before Sunday, leading Knight to praise Harper’s strides in production.

“One positive was Zoe Harper coming in and doing a great job for us off the bench,” she said. “It was great for her, a great step in the right direction, and I was really proud of her.”

A concern for the rest of Minnesota’s season was junior guard Emily Fox’s lack of offensive production for the second straight game.

Fox shot just 2-of-13 from the field, and has averaged four points per game on the road trip.

“Emily is trying too hard and she knows it,” Borton said. “But the best players go through this at some point, and she’s going to get herself out of it.”