The string of bad luck that has plagued the Minnesota women’s basketball team in the last 10 days was cut Wednesday night at the Sports Pavilion.
The Gophers (3-4) capitalized on a team record-tying 10 three-pointers to down Ohio (1-4) 77-67.
“I think overall, I was impressed with our intensity,” coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “In the last week, from an emotional standpoint, this team and coaching staff has been through a lot. For us to come out and get focused, it shows a lot of what this team is made of. I was proud of everybody.”
Two players took it upon themselves to lift Minnesota out of its 10-day funk.
Sophomore Cassie VanderHeyden and freshman Lindsay Lieser teamed up to hit nine of Minnesota’s 10 treys.
“We’re shooters,” VanderHeyden said. “That’s one of our roles. If we feel it, we’re going to keep shooting that ball.”
Against Ohio, they felt it.
The Gophers’ sloppy play to open the game kept them scoreless for the first 2:30 before Lieser drained a three for the first Minnesota points of the game. The game remained close until VanderHeyden scored a pair from beyond the arc in 30 seconds at the 8:46 mark and Lieser chipped in another 1:10 later to guide the Gophers to a 36-26 halftime lead.
The first half just isn’t the Bobcats’ thing. Heading into Wednesday’s contest, Ohio had been outscored 146-112 in the first half.
The second half wasn’t as easy.
Halfway through, Ohio switched to a full-court press and forced nine Gophers turnovers in less than five minutes.
Littlejohn’s solution? Let them play.
“My assistant coaches were hollering at me to call the timeout,” Littlejohn said. “I knew that I had to put the ball in the hands of (good free-throw shooters). In order for me to show that I’ve got confidence in them, they’ve got to be put in those kind of situations, and they pulled it off.”
Down the stretch, Litttlejohn’s strategy paid off.
Not known for its free-throw ability, (the team shot 0-2 in the first half) Minnesota pulled through in the end, hitting nine free throws in the last 3:11 to cap the 10-point victory.
Ohio coach Lynn Bria said the Bobcats simply ran out of options in the second half.
“We’re really not a pressing team,” she said, “but nothing else was working. We tried (the press) and it got us back in the game.”
VanderHeyden led the Gophers with 19 points and six assists. Lieser finished with 17 points.
Ohio boasted three players averaging over 10 points per game before Wednesday night. Minnesota buckled down, using an obvious size advantage to limit just one of the three in double figures.
With two games this weekend, Littlejohn said despite being down players, she expects her team to do well.
“We may not have a lot of depth, but we still have a lot of talent,” she said. “We expect to be able to do the same things we want to, but now you have to change your game plan.”
Brian Stensaas welcomes comments at [email protected]