Minnesota struggles to make shots against No. 19 Indiana

Minnesota only shot 32.2% in Wednesday’s matchup against No. 19 Indiana, as the Gophers were unable to overcome the preseason favorite to win the conference.

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Shannon Doyle

Gophers center Klarke Sconiers fights for a pass at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The Gophers defeated Eastern Illinois 72-68.

Tony Liebert, Sports Reporter

The Gophers women’s basketball team’s early season struggles continued Wednesday at the hands of a 75-54 defeat to the No. 19 Indiana Hoosiers.

Minnesota’s fifth opponent of the season, Indiana, was dubbed as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten conference. Deservedly so, as the Hoosiers brought back four starters from a team last season that went 24-8, setting a school record for wins. They’re led by a pair of veteran All-Conference guards, Grace Berger and Ali Patberg.

Indiana University head coach Teri Moren entered this matchup having led her team to a 3-2 record on the season. They have already been tested by some of the best competition in the country, proving to be a tough test for a struggling Gophers team.

Wednesday was Minnesota’s first game this season with a completely healthy roster. Head coach Lindsay Whalen received an early Christmas present Tuesday, as Nebraska-transfer Kayla Mershon was ruled eligible for the remaining 2020-21 season. The 6-foot-3 forward’s Gophers debut could’ve very well been what Minnesota needed, as they came ready to play, and Whalen was impressed with her performance.

“She came in and provided leadership, she has no quit in her,” Whalen said. “She took the challenge of guarding Mackenzie Holmes who is playing at an All-Conference level. I thought she did a lot of really positive things for us.”

The Gophers opened with their best first quarter of the season. After being outscored 97-54 in the previous four opening quarters combined, Minnesota found itself leading 16-15 after 10 minutes of play. Cornell graduate-transfer Laura Bagwell-Katalinch was active on both ends of the floor leading the Gophers with four points and three rebounds.

“At practice this last week, we were able to have some time where we focused on what we thought were our strongest attributes offensive and defensively,” Whalen said. “We took care of the ball, I was very pleased with that start as well.”

The second quarter was a different story, as the Hoosiers began with a 14-2 run, jumping out to an 11 point lead halfway through. Bagwell-Katalinich did her best to keep the Gophers in it, drawing her second charge of the game and continuing to scrap on both ends of the floor with six points and five rebounds.

Ultimately, Indiana found its rhythm making 57.1% of its second quarter shots compared to the Gophers’ 20%. The Indiana lead was 36-25 heading into the break.

Coming out of the locker room, the Gophers ran into much of their same season-long problems. The third quarter saw six Minnesota turnovers resulting in 10 Indiana points. IU’s Mackenzie Holmes and Jaelynn Penn combined to score 14 of Indiana’s 19 third quarter points resulting in a 55-40 Hoosiers lead heading into the final quarter of play.

It seemed as if Minnesota did not have much in the tank, as Indiana continued to extend its lead into the fourth quarter. The Gophers’ shooting struggled continued at a 26.7% mark in the fourth, resulting in a 75-54 defeat.

Overall, the Gophers shot 19-of-59 from the field as a team, a mark that any team will have serious trouble overcoming.

“We’re not satisfied with the loss, but excited that our team came together and was able to put up a big fight against a team that was picked to win the conference,” Whalen said.

Minnesota will have 13 days off until it’s slated to travel to Iowa City, Iowa, for a Jan. 6 matchup with the Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1).