Post struggles in tournament split

Senior forward Kristen Dockery attempts a basket against Milwaukee November 20 at Williams Arena.

Jason Kopp, Daily File Photo

Senior forward Kristen Dockery attempts a basket against Milwaukee November 20 at Williams Arena.

John Hageman

The first road trip of the year for the Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team brought all-too familiar results. The Gophers (4-3) defeated North Carolina State 71-67 Saturday in the consolation game of the Nugget Classic in Reno, Nev., after a late rally fell short against San Diego State in a 61-59 loss Friday. It was the third four-team tournament the Gophers have played in this year but the first time they havenâÄôt reached the championship game. Both teams battled back and forth throughout the first half Saturday, and the Gophers took a 33-32 lead going into the break. Trailing 51-50 with more than 11 minutes left in the game, backup senior center Kristen Dockery scored eight straight points and gave the Gophers a 58-53 lead with more than seven minutes remaining, a lead they wouldnâÄôt relinquish. Dockery scored a career-high 12 points off the bench Saturday. She had started in the place of sophomore Katie Loberg, who injured her left knee two weeks ago but returned to her starting role this weekend. Dockery, who has played a limited role due to a career filled with injures, said she gained confidence from making a handful of starts. âÄúIt just kind of reaffirmed that youâÄôre a great player and you just have to trust and believe in that,âÄù Dockery said. âÄúI just have to stay confident and do what I do.âÄù In her first appearances since going down with injury, Loberg tallied 24 points and six boards in the two weekend games. âÄúFor me, being out for two weeks felt more like two months,âÄù Loberg said. âÄúI feel like I adjusted pretty well to the pace right away.âÄù When the GophersâÄô leading scorer senior Kiara Buford got in early foul trouble Saturday, sophomore Leah Cotton stepped in and scored a career-high 25 points off the bench, leading all scorers. Senior China Antoine, who was on a scoring tear earlier this month, managed just eight points over the weekend. âÄúEveryoneâÄôs keying in on China and Kiara,âÄù head coach Pam Borton said. âÄúThatâÄôs why itâÄôs important for other people to step up âĦ WeâÄôre becoming a lot more balanced.âÄù While staying within striking distance of the Wolfpack on Saturday, the Gophers were forced to dig themselves out of multiple holes against San Diego State on Friday. The Gophers were down by 14 with less than four minutes left in the first half but went on a 9-0 run to pull within five at the break. After getting within three in the second, the Gophers let the Aztecs get away yet again with a 14-6 run, putting them down by 11 with 12 minutes remaining. But the Gophers again fought back, cutting a 10-point deficit to two on a layup from Cotton with just 43 seconds remaining. But CottonâÄôs jumper with just six seconds left didnâÄôt fall, and the GophersâÄô rally fell short. The Gophers shot just 36 percent from the floor Friday but improved to 44 percent Saturday. But the shooting percentage wasnâÄôt the only thing that concerned Borton on Friday. âÄúI thought our post play was terrible, giving up too many easy layups,âÄù Borton said. âÄúI think we had 20 to 22 uncontested shots around the rim [Friday], and we only lost by two.âÄù The fact that the Gophers fought through struggles on both ends of the floor and double-digit deficits twice Friday gives Borton some hope that her team can fight through adversity. âÄúWe have to find out why weâÄôre getting down that much,âÄù Borton said. âÄúBut I think weâÄôre starting to control the tempo of the game a little bit better, which we did [Saturday] âĦ I think when we start doing that consistently thereâÄôs more wins to come.âÄù