Purdue adds to Gophers’ home losing streak

Brian Stensaas

Purdue guard Kelly Komara danced to the beat of the warm-up music while practicing shooting drills prior to Thursday’s game with Minnesota. Perhaps it’s her way to get pumped up for a Big Ten game.
Or maybe she was working on her victory dance.
The 17th-ranked Boilermakers used a persistent inside game and an obvious talent advantage to beat the Gophers 69-50 at the Sports Pavilion on Thursday. The home conference loss is Minnesota’s 22nd straight.
“We played hard, with a lot of emotion, a lot more effort,” coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “It just wasn’t enough to win. That’s a championship team (Purdue), what can I say?”
Despite the disadvantage, it wasn’t so obvious in the first half that the Gophers were playing against the defending national champions.
Cassie VanderHeyden gave Minnesota its first and only lead early in the game by knocking down a three-pointer to give the Gophers a 3-2 edge. Both teams played convincing defense from that point on, and at times seemed to spend more time on the court floor than on their feet.
Minnesota’s brightest hour came with just under seven minutes to go in the half. VanderHeyden hit a jumper and Lindsay Lieser followed by hitting a pair of consecutive three-pointers. Brandy Pickens hit a baseline jumper for her only two points of the game, finishing off an impressive 10-0 run by the Gophers, getting them within two at 25-23.
But it was as close as they could get.
The Boilermakers finished the half by scoring the last five points and taking a 30-23 lead at the break.
Purdue’s first-year coach Kristy Curry said she was getting a bit frustrated in the first half.
“I think the biggest thing about us in the first half was that we weren’t ready to play,” she said. “We weren’t playing with the urgency, and I think night in and night out in this conference you have to be ready to play.”
The second half was a mirror image to the conclusion of the first.
Purdue came out to play, forcing Minnesota at times to take sloppy desperation shots with the shotclock winding down. Despite the inspired Purdue play, Minnesota didn’t relent.
The Gophers played a full-court press and remained aggressive, gaining four steals in the half and finishing with 12 for the game — all of which Littlejohn said she was happy to see.
VanderHeyden finished with 15 points to lead Minnesota. Lieser finished with nine for the Gophers while Katie Douglas led Purdue with 25 points. The Boilermakers shot 19-of-23 from the free-throw line, which made the difference in the game.
With the win, Purdue improves to 4-3, tied for third in the conference. Minnesota falls to 1-6, occupying the cellar.
The Gophers will look to get back on the winning side Sunday when they take on Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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