After losing their last two games by a combined three points, the Gopher women’s basketball team looked to end its skid Monday night against the undefeated Virginia Commonwealth Rams.
Despite the absence of leading scorer Lindsay Whalen, the Gophers came away with a 72-57 victory in their only home game in December.
The Gophers got off to a fast start, jumping out to an early 13-4 lead. The offense eventually cooled off, however, and momentum began to swing in the Rams direction midway through the half.
The Gophers managed hold their lead until a layup with a minute and a half remaing in the half put VCU up 30 to 28. The score remained the same until the Rams Rochelle Luckett banked in a 3 as the horn sounded, handing the Gophers a 5 point deficit going into the half.
After making a few halftime adjustments, coach Cheryl Littlejohn’s team got their offense back on track, taking a 41-40 lead on a Lindsay Lieser three-pointer.
Minnesota was playing without it’s leading scorer and almost lost its mascot as well. Goldy Gopher, trying to fire up the crowd, suffered a minor injury in an incident with a folding chair, but play continued nonetheless.
The teams traded baskets until the Gophers offense again took it up a notch, going on a 10-2 run sparked by back-to-back threes by Ozlem Piroglu and Lieser. With just under 5 minutes to play, the Gophers had opened up a 63-53 advantange.
This time, though, the defense was able to tighten the screws and hold VCU to just 4 points in the final 5 minutes to defeat the Rams.
Despite shaky first-half defense, coach Littlejohn was happy with the effort in the second half.
“We did a better job in the second half of locating shooters, crashing the boards… and containing penetration,” Littlejohn said.
The Gophers offensive attack was balanced throughout the evening, with four players finishing in double figures. Tanisha Gilbert led the way for the Gophers, scoring a game-high 17 points and pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds.
Ozlem Piroglu also turned in a double-double for the Gophers, scoring 14 points and dishing out a game-high 10 assists.
Other Gophers finishing in double figures were Kim Prince with 14 and Lindsay Lieser who added 11.
Coach Littlejohn stressed a better game for the team as a whole saying, “It was a great team effort.”