Gophers’ comeback effort falls short

Iowa’s three point shooting was too hot for Minnesota to combat as it fell 72-69 in Iowa City on Sunday afternoon.

Mark Heise

Chalk up another tough road loss for the Minnesota women’s basketball team.

The Gophers (18-9 overall, 9-6 Big Ten) fell once again despite playing with a lead late in the second half, losing to Iowa 72-69 to all-but end their hopes of a regular season conference championship.

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what: Women’s basketball
when: 11 a.m., Saturday
where: Williams Arena

Minnesota struggled to keep up with the Hawkeyes in the first half, as Iowa shot 69 percent from three-point range. The Gophers managed to make up for that in the second half, but couldn’t hit a shot in the clutch, leading to the loss.

“We just couldn’t make a couple of plays down the stretch,” coach Pam Borton said. “We dug ourselves a hole, and we got ourselves back in the game, but their seniors made plays at the end.”

Iowa (18-8, 11-4) made use of its well-balanced offense to shoot 55 percent from the field, and opened up a strong lead midway through the first half.

When Minnesota went to a zone defense, the Hawkeyes took advantage of the inherent weakness of a zone, knocking down nine three-pointers in 13 attempts.

Junior forward Wendy Ausdemore knocked down five from beyond the arc in the first half to notch 17 points, leading the Hawkeyes to a 15-point lead with three minutes remaining in the half.

If it weren’t for senior forward Leslie Knight, the Gophers would have been in trouble at halftime. Knight scored eight of the team’s last 10 points in the final two minutes of the period, cutting the lead to 34-44 at the half.

Knight went 6-of-14 from the field for 14 first-half points, and sophomore guard Brittany McCoy added four points on 2-of-3 shooting. The rest of the team shot just 5-of-23, less than 22 percent.

“We had some looks that people usually hit, and they just didn’t fall,” Knight said. “It’s tough when the other team is hitting everything they throw up, and you can’t get shots that would normally fall to go in.”

Minnesota turned things around in the second half, keeping Iowa at bay in the scoring department while improving its shooting percentage.

The Gophers got some more balanced scoring, as four starters reached double figures and the team shot 41 percent in the second half.

Minnesota made a run early with strong defense, and closed the gap. With 5:30 left, sophomore guard Katie Ohm knocked down a three-pointer to give the Gophers a 62-59 advantage, their biggest lead of the night.

But Iowa wasn’t finished. After tying the game up at 65, the Hawkeyes continued to show off their ability to finish out close games.

Iowa put up seven points in the final three minutes, while rebounding well on the defensive end to hold off Minnesota in the 72-69 Gophers’ loss.

“It’s really disappointing, we wanted this game pretty bad,” Ohm said. “It was just a couple of plays here and there that we didn’t execute, and that gave them the game.”

Ausdemore led all scorers with 22 points, while Knight led Minnesota with 20.

With three games remaining before the conference tournament, Minnesota is sitting in fourth place, just a half-game ahead of fifth-place Indiana.