Ball State upsets Gophers in first round of WNIT

Minnesota started poorly at home and couldn’t recover.

Samuel Gordon

Days after missing the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year, the Gophers women’s basketball team ended its season with a 54-51 home loss to Ball State in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

Friday’s loss concluded another disappointing season for Minnesota.

The Gophers (18-14) opened the season with six straight wins and took an 11-3 record into Big Ten play.

But Minnesota struggled in the conference, losing seven of nine games at one point.

And despite finishing the regular season with a couple of impressive victories, the Gophers were unimpressive in postseason play, losing in the first round of the Big Ten tournament and the WNIT.

“Obviously this is a very disappointing loss and something that we weren’t expecting,” head coach Pam Borton said in a release.

Ball State, which never trailed, opened the game on an 11-0 run and held a 27-17 lead at halftime.

The 17 first-half points were the fewest by the Gophers this season.

Minnesota’s offensive struggles continued throughout the game, as it shot 29.5 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 18 times.

“We got off to a very slow start offensively,” Borton said. “It’s tough to win a basketball game with those stats.”

A 14-6 Cardinals run early in the second half helped them go up 41-29, and they led by 16 points later in the second half.

The Gophers rallied and made it a game in the final minutes. Junior guard Sari Noga drilled a three-pointer and junior forward-center Micaëlla Riché made a pair of free throws and cut the lead to four.

Sophomore guard Rachel Banham’s jumper made it a two-point game with less than a minute to play, but she missed a three-pointer on the next possession and Ball State held on.

Riché led the Gophers with 18 points. Banham added 12 points and 10 rebounds.