First-half slump

Mark Heller

It’s been one or the other for the Gophers women’s basketball team this season.
One half of the game, that is.
Minnesota (7-14, 2-9) continued its season-long trend of putting together only 20 minutes of basketball, losing to Northwestern (9-22, 3-7) 66-53 on Sunday.
It was the Gophers’ fifth straight loss, having also been beaten this weekend by Illinois 88-69.
Sunday’s debacle, however, hurt badly.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Gophers coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “The bottom line was the first half. We basically watched Northwestern play. The starters have to do a better a job. We had no intensity.”
The first half Littlejohn was referring to was the one in which Minnesota’s starting five scored zero points, shot 22 percent as a team and posted an turnover-to-assist ratio of 2.8 to 1.
The Gophers’ 17 first-half points was a season low.
Northwestern, meanwhile, got off to a quick 9-0 lead four minutes into the game on a couple of quick inside baskets and a three-pointer by Megan Chawansky. The Wildcats held Minnesota scoreless until junior Moneeke Bowden’s layup some six minutes into the game.
A steal and three-pointer by freshman Cassie VanderHeyden cut the Wildcats lead to 18-10, but Clarissa Flores’ three-pointer pushed it back up to 24-10, and Flores hit another from beyond the arc to close the half at 34-17.
“This was an extremely important game for us,” Wildcats coach Dan Perrelli said. “And we came out very intense. We knew if we came out and executed, we’d have an opportunity to win. A loss and we’re a game behind in the cellar (of the Big Ten).”
Things picked up a little in the second half for the Gophers. They committed only four turnovers and shot 37 percent.
Minnesota briefly cut the lead to single digits on a three-pointer by Tweet Blevins with 3:36 remaining to make it 56-47.
But a quick 6-0 burst by Northwestern pushed the lead back to 15 with three minutes left.
Bowden finished with a career-high 16 points and Blevins added 13 points and five assists.
“Those two have been consistent in practice for the past two weeks,” Littlejohn said. “But you can’t win with two players. It takes everybody.”
This was a very winnable and disappointing game for Minnesota, but the Gophers made it clear they’re not about to quit.
“We’re going to come back harder,” Moneeke said. “We’ve got five games left. It ain’t over.”

GAME SUMMARY
Minnesota 17 36 — 53
Northwestern 34 32 — 66

Minnesota (7-14, 2-9)
Harris 0-2 0-0 0, Robinson 2-10 0-0 4, Bell 2-4 0-0 4, Olson 0-4 0-0 0, Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Hansen 1-6 2-2 4, Tate 3-8 0-0 6, Bowden 7-11 1-3 16, Blevins 4-7 3-4 13, VanderHeyden 2-10 0-0 6, LeCuyer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-64 6-9 53.
Northwestern (9-11, 3-7)
Flores 3-11 5-7 14, Schock 7-12 0-0 14, Sears 3-7 2-3 8, Leonard 1-3 3-3 5, Chawansky 5-12 6-6 17, McGarrigle 3-4 0-0 7, Holland 0-0 0-0 0, Berki 0-1 1-2 1, Giblin 0-0 0-0 0, Jurek 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-50 17-21 66.
3-point goals — Minnesota 5-17 (Harris 0-1, Olson 0-3, Hanson 0-1, Bowden 1-2, Blevins 2-2, VanderHeyden 2-8) Northwestern 5-15 (Flores 3-7, Schock 0-1, Leonard 0-1, Chawansky 1-4, McGarrigle 1-2).
Rebounds — Minnesota 43 (Robinson 10) Northwestern (Sears, Chawansky 7). Assists — Minnesota 15 (Blevins 5), Northwestern 17 (Leonard 6). Blocked Shots — Minnesota 0, Northwestern 3 (Chawansky 2). Total Fouls — Minnesota 17, Northwestern 11.
A — 1,372.