Gophers women’s basketball falls at home to Penn State

The Gophers’ rough second half was too much to overcome in Sunday’s matchup with the Nittany Lions.

Gophers+Forward+Jasmine+Powell+approaches+defenders+in+Williams+Arena+on+Sunday%2C+Feb.+10.+The+Gophers+suffered+a+defeat+against+Michigan+52-77.

Liam Armstrong

Gophers Forward Jasmine Powell approaches defenders in Williams Arena on Sunday, Feb. 10. The Gophers suffered a defeat against Michigan 52-77.

Tony Liebert, Sports Reporter

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were not able to overcome another rough shooting night, as the Penn State Nittany Lions took advantage resulting in a 69-60 Gophers’ defeat.

A matchup with 3-5 Penn State was next on the schedule for the Gophers. The Nittany Lions entered Sunday’s contest on the heels of a five-game losing skid. PSU’s second-year head coach Carolyn Kieger receives the bulk of her team’s production from three players.

Graduate student guard Kelly Jekot, sophomore guard Makkena Marisa and senior forward Johnasia Cash combine to average 54% of the Nittany Lions’ points every game, along with 49% of the team’s rebounding. Sunday’s contest presented a great opportunity at Williams Arena for Minnesota to pick up its second Big Ten win of the season.

Gophers’ head coach Lindsay Whalen decided to make changes to the starting lineup for the second consecutive contest. After plugging Alexia Smith in for Sara Scalia due to her shoulder injury last time out, Scalia later came off of the bench. This time Scalia’s previously separated shoulder prevented her from suiting up.

“No real update on Sara, we got late word that she wouldn’t be able to go,” Whalen said.

The changes continued with Kayla Mershon making her Gophers debut in the starting five. The former Nebraska transfer replaced Klarke Sconiers in the starting lineup.

Early in the first quarter, Gophers’ point guard Jasmine Powell picked up two fouls. This led to true-freshman guard Katie Borowicz checking into the game for her first time as a Golden Gopher. Borowicz decided to enroll at Minnesota following her early graduation from Roseau High School. The 5-foot-7, four-star guard’s role in 2021 was unknown, but she has quickly found the floor less than two weeks from formally announcing her decision to join the team.

“I thought Katie showed some real moxie to come in there and play the way she did,” Whalen said.

Overall, the first 10 minutes saw very balanced production, with every Gopher scoring except for Smith, resulting in a 15-14 deficit.

Powell began to heat up when she made her way back into the game. The sophomore guard led Minnesota with 10 points and two rebounds in the second quarter. The back-and-forth contest continued with Penn State’s Maddie Burke scoring eight points in the quarter. The Gophers carried a 34-33 lead into the locker room at the half.

Penn State opened the second half with tremendous pressure, resulting in a 9-3 run and giving the Nittany Lions a 43-36 lead less than two minutes into the half. The Gophers did their best to fight back, but 30.8% shooting paired with six turnovers resulted in Penn State extending its lead to 54-44 heading into the fourth quarter.

“They put a lot of different defenses on us, and we obviously struggled against it,” Whalen said. “The third quarter is killing us, we need to be a team that comes out of with some sort of semblance that we are ready to play.”

Both teams struggled offensively in the final quarter of play. Minnesota made one field goal in the final 4:41 of play, and Penn State only made two the entire quarter. Ultimately the Gophers’ nine team fouls in the last 10 minutes resulted in 12 Penn State free throws, 10 of which the team made. Minnesota came up short 69-60, and is now 2-6 on the season.

Minnesota struggled immensely on the offensive end all game, shooting only 31.3% from the field. Powell had one of her better games of the season with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and only three turnovers, but the Gophers only received 41 points from their other seven players.

“It is how you come ready to work every day,” Whalen said. “There is no classes right now, we’re Division I athletes and it is how you come into practice every day to sustain that.”

The Gophers are now slated to travel to College Park, Maryland, for a Jan. 14 matchup against the No. 12 ranked Maryland Terrapins.