Australian Skins no match for Gophers

The Gophers scored 29 points off Australia’s 34 turnovers.

Mark Heise

There was nothing wrong with the Minnesota women’s basketball team’s transition game Sunday night.

The Gophers ran the floor against the Australia Showtime Skins on Sunday at Williams Arena, scoring 29 points off turnovers en route to an 88-48 victory.

“I think we’re a lot further along this year than we were last year,” coach Pam Borton said. “There were some very good things that we saw today, and then there were some things that we need to work on, but the good news is it’s early.”

The first half was, as expected, all Minnesota. Junior guard Emily Fox led a high-energy defense as the Gophers created 10 steals and limited Australia to four field goals to jump out to a healthy 48-25 lead.

The Skins didn’t score their first field goal until nearly 10 minutes into the game. Minnesota’s offense, meanwhile, was firing on all cylinders. Fox put up 16 points and sophomore guard Katie Ohm added nine points including a pair of three-pointers.

The Gophers proved to be a much more physical team, out-rebounding Australia 29-20 in the first half, and scoring 30 points from the paint.

But the posts didn’t have all the advantages, as Minnesota struggled to recognize the double team, leading to five turnovers and several broken plays.

Sophomore guard Brittany McCoy blamed it on the lack of size on Australia’s team.

“I think it’ll be better when we start playing bigger teams that can guard our posts one-on-one,” she said. “In playing these smaller teams, we noticed they were very quick to collapse.”

The Gophers did a better job of taking care of the ball in the paint during the second half and added 24 more points from inside the lane.

Sophomore center and Australian native Zoe Harper led the way in the second half, scoring 10 of a game-high 18 points against a team from her homeland.

“It was a fun night,” Harper said. “It was nice to be around people from home and hear some Australian accents. I think we saw a lot of things we still need to work on, but it was a good night.”

Perhaps the biggest struggle Minnesota faced in its blowout win was its foul trouble, as the Gophers had three starters on the bench with three fouls in the first half. Fouls also meant sending Australia to the free throw line and accounted for 22 of the Skins’ 48 points.

“We had some of our key players getting into foul trouble, and we had to adjust to how the game was being called,” Borton said. “Our kids were trying to do what we asked them, but they’re ending up in the wrong spot and using their hands too much, which got us into trouble.”

Fox fouled out after playing just three minutes in the second half, and sophomore forward Ashley Ellis-Milan sat out most of the second half with four fouls.

In the final tune-up before the regular season, McCoy, Harper and Borton all agreed on what needs work: rebounding. Despite beating the Skins 52-34 in that category, none were satisfied.

“We have a lot of rebounds, but I think it’s a false indicator of what we’re doing,” McCoy said. “We need to box out better, or when we start to play bigger teams, it’s something that will be exploited.”