After exit from tournament, Gophers postseason plans on hold

Paul Cordes

>INDIANAPOLIS – The Minnesota women’s basketball team ran into a 6-foot-9-inch brick wall that put an end to its run for a Big Ten tournament championship Friday afternoon.

Michigan State freshman center Allyssa DeHaan was unstoppable inside and her 27 points were arguably the biggest reason the Gophers fell 77-68 to the Spartans in the conference tournament quarterfinals at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

DeHaan, who was a nonfactor in Minnesota’s first contest with Michigan State (23-8, 13-3), scoring eight points in the Spartan’s win last Sunday, had improved confidence and dominated offensively.

Coach Pam Borton said her team did a lot better in the paint in its first meeting with the Spartans.

“We took it right to them and (DeHaan) got a couple of fouls early and our post didn’t back down,” she said. “But today we missed some layups and that got us into a hole at the beginning of the game.”

But DeHaan’s offensive presence wasn’t the only reason the Gophers found themselves in a 19-point hole early in the game.

Minnesota’s (16-15 overall, 7-9 Big Ten) inside game, or lack of, allowed for rampant turnovers and close to no offensive production.

Freshman center Ashley Ellis-Milan again struggled in the post, failing to hit either of her attempts from the field as she had the first scoreless game of her career and turned the ball over three times.

Ellis-Milan though was far from the only struggling post player for Minnesota.

Freshman guard Korinne Campbell, junior forward Leslie Knight, freshman center Zoe Harper and Ellis-Milan combined for more turnovers than points as they scored nine points while giving the ball up 11 times.

Michigan State sophomore forward Aisha Jefferson, who had 15 points on the night, said with all the success the Gophers had inside last game, the Spartans weren’t going to give up those easy points again.

“Why wouldn’t they go inside on us? The first time we played they killed us inside,” she said. “They kept going inside and going inside but our post players did a great job on defense. We really turned around our defense this game.”

But the post players weren’t all to blame for the turnover problems.

Bad passes resulted in several miscues and created plenty of extra opportunities for Michigan State.

All in all senior guard Kelly Roysland said turnovers killed the Gophers.

“It seemed like every time we tried to go inside our post players would bobble the ball or we didn’t make a good pass,” she said. “Turnovers bit us in the butt tonight.”

However, Roysland refused to sit back and watch the Spartans run away with the things and took the game off the shoulders of sophomore guard Emily Fox, who scored a team leading 21 points and six assists while turning the ball over just once, and supplied some fireworks of her own.

Roysland had been struggling as she tried to recoup from a broken collarbone and after a scoreless first half, it looked as though she would end the tournament on a rough note.

Instead, Roysland single handedly led the Gophers charging back to cut the lead to five as she scored 18 second-half points including four three-pointers.

Borton said even though the late charge fell short, Roysland brought some of the great leadership she had displayed all year.

“(Roysland) really ended the game like a champion,” she said. “And I think the other players really fed off of that.”

Minnesota now rests in a gray area as it waits for the NCAA to announce its postseason bracket.

The Gophers are sitting on a bubble, but it isn’t unprecedented for 17-win teams to get an invite.

Either way, Borton wants to continue to practice and play with the team she’s got right now.

“We feel like we have more basketball in us and I’m hoping we can still get into the NCAA tournament,” she said. “If not we’ll go to the (National Invitation Tournament), continue playing and get more games under our belt.”