33’s the charm for women’s hoops

by Aaron Kirscht

Call it chance. Call it harmonic convergence. Call it whatever. It doesn’t matter.
It’s over.
The Gophers women’s basketball team snapped its epic 32-game Big Ten losing streak with a gut-wrenching win over Ohio State on Sunday at the Sports Pavilion, 66-64. And that, as they say, is that.
“I’m elated for the players, for all their efforts and hard work and all they’ve been through,” Hill-MacDonald said. “There were some tired players out there today, and they worked through a lot.
“It’s just incredible to me, the way they keep hanging in there.”
Minnesota’s perseverance was tested early in the second half. Ohio State doubled its six-point halftime lead in the first five minutes and appeared ready to roll — as so many Gophers opponents had done before.
But just as quickly as they went down, the Gophers came back. With the Buckeyes leading 44-32, they went on a 9-0 run, cutting the lead to three and forcing an Ohio State timeout.
That strategy proved effective for the Buckeyes, who built their lead back up to nine at the mid-point of the half. But the message was sent.
“If you let them think they can play with you and let them think they’re still hanging around,” Buckeyes guard Marcie Alberts said, “they’re going to hang around.”
Minnesota whittled down the lead once again, and the 1,400 fans in attendance stood in anticipation of what had appeared unlikely only minutes before.
Gophers center Angie Iverson’s two free throws tied the game at 60-60 with 3:32 to play. On Ohio State’s ensuing possession, Alberts threw up a shot that hit the side of the backboard. Although the ball failed to hit the rim, the shot clock was reset, giving the Buckeyes 30 more seconds to break the tie.
Tara Mitchem’s driving jumper put Ohio State up by two with 2:33 to play, and the Minnesota sideline cried foul. Play was delayed for several minutes while game officials conferred with the scorer’s desk.
The final verdict was to continue play, which left Hill-MacDonald ranting on the sidelines, joining the crowd in urging officials to wave off Mitchem’s basket.
In the end, it wouldn’t matter.
After free throws by Minnesota’s Mindy Hansen and Sonja Robinson, Hansen’s baseline jumper with 1:48 remaining gave the Gophers a 64-62 lead — their first since going ahead 4-3 a minute into the game. This time, Minnesota wouldn’t fall behind again.
The teams traded turnovers on their next two possessions, until the Gophers’ Kiauna Burns knocked around Ohio State’s Marcie Alberts. Alberts hit the ground hard, landing on her hip, and had to leave the game.
Mitchem replaced Alberts at the free throw line and hit one of two, bringing the Buckeyes to within one, 64-63, with :49.2 to play.
The Gophers played a possession offense as the clock ticked down, waiting for an opening inside. That opening never came, forcing Hansen to put up a shot from 16 feet that fell short.
A scramble for the rebound went to the Gophers. Burns danced around at the top of the key until she was fouled with :15.8 left in the game.
After another Ohio State timeout, Burns made both free throws and gave Minnesota a 66-63 lead. On the Buckeyes’ inbounds play, the ball went to forward Michaela Moua, who was 3-of-6 from behind the arc.
Iverson blocked Moua’s wild 3-point attempt, but diverted the ball into the hands of Ohio State forward Marrita Porter under the basket with four seconds left on the clock.
Porter’s shot skipped off the rim as she was fouled by Robinson. She hit the first free throw and missed the second on purpose, in hopes of scoring off a putback, but Hansen rebounded and dribbled out of traffic.
And just like that, for the first time in nearly two years, the Gophers (3-18 overall, 1-10 Big Ten) notched a straight number in the Big Ten win column. It had to happen eventually.
“If you’re No. 11 in the conference standings, who do you want to play the most?” asked Ohio State coach Nancy Darsch. “No. 10. So, we had a big bull’s eye on us, and we didn’t rise to the challenge.”
The Buckeyes conference standing (11-10, 3-8) wasn’t all that mattered to the Gophers, however. Minnesota may have still felt the sting of a 53-point loss at home to Ohio State last season.
“This one is particularly sweet because they really pounded on us last year,” Hill-MacDonald said. “To play as well as we played today and to come away with a win is very, very rewarding. There’s nothing like a win to show (the players) they’ve improved.”
But Iverson, who led all scorers with 22 points, said it doesn’t matter who the opponent was — so long as the Gophers came away with a win.
“It means a lot,” Iverson said. “I’m so excited now. We finally got this win, and we’re going to start it rolling.”

Ohio State 33 31 — 64
Gophers 27 39 — 66

SCORING — Robinson 2-8 1-2 5, Klun 1-5 0-0 2, Iverson 8-14 6-8 22, Ellis 3-4 0-0 7, Burns 4-7 5-7 13, Hansen 5-9 2-4 12, Hass 2-10 1-2 3, Seago 0-0 0-0 0.
REBOUNDS — Robinson 4, Klun 2, Iverson 9, Ellis 2, Burns 2, Hansen 3, Hass 1, Seago 0.
A — 1,403.