Women’s hoops takes road split

by Mark Heller

The all-too familiar sound of clanging rims and stagnant scoreboards filled California gymnasiums during Thanksgiving weekend.
Perhaps the lure of the surf, sand and smog threw off the Minnesota women’s basketball team, or maybe it was too much food on Thursday.
Whatever caused the Gophers (2-2) to bang iron, it worked quite well. They shot 30 percent in a 65-54 loss on Sunday to California-Irvine. This after a 28 percent adventure in a 52-50 win over San Diego late Tuesday night.
While Minnesota escaped on Tuesday by making 22-for-31 free throws, they were tortured by the Anteaters on Sunday, who went 20-for-24 at the charity stripe.
The Anteaters (3-1) essentially clinched Sunday’s game with an 18-2 run late in the first half for a 33-25 halftime lead.
Twice Gophers freshman Lindsay Lieser cut the lead to six on three-pointers, but Minnesota never got closer, and the Anteaters’ Megan Stafford scored seven straight points to push the lead up to 12.
Minnesota added insult to insult with 20 turnovers to go along with its 30 percent shooting.
Erin Olson led the Gophers with 12 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
Olson just finished what she started Tuesday night.
The senior guard-forward-everything hit three free throws in the final 16 seconds to cap a comeback over San Diego.
Olson was fouled after snaring a rebound off a Minnesota three-pointer. Then she hit the two free throws for a 51-50 lead.
San Diego’s Susie Erpelding missed a baseline jumper, and Olson got the rebound and was fouled again. She hit the second free throw with two seconds left. Monique Bowden stole the inbounds pass at the buzzer.
Once again, Olson led the Gophers with 14 points. She also hit four free throws last weekend to clinch the win against Georgetown.
Olson alone is not what coach Cheryl Littlejohn had in mind when she has referred to her young team’s ability to score points. Freshman guard Trish McGhee added 12 points against the Anteaters, but the rest of the team accounted for 30 points. Shooting 0-for-8 from behind the arc didn’t help either.
Minnesota hopes its frigid shooting thaws in time for Bradley University on Friday night. The Gophers still have a month’s worth of nonconference games before the Big Ten season starts at Indiana on Dec. 30.

Mark Heller covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected].