The Minnesota Gophers women’s basketball team got off to about as poor a start as you can have when you are playing to keep your season alive. Minnesota started the game shooting 1-12 from the field, committed six turnovers, and had their real lone post player pick up to fouls in less than three minutes. Yet they still somehow came back to tie the game at 67 with just over 45 seconds left in the game. It unfortunately would not be enough as The Nittany Lions capitalized one one final Gopher defensive miscue to take the lead for good and hang on for a 72-67 victory. The Gophers season comes to an end with a 11-19 record.
The Gophers closed the first quarter on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 21-9 for PSU at the end of the first quarter. In the second the Gophers continued to slowly claw their way back, but every time Minnesota would go on a slow run and cut the Nittany Lion lead, they would shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers or poor shot selection. Minnesota would end the half with 13 turnovers but they would cut the lead to ten at the break down 35-25.
Mara Braun tried to take the game over for Minnesota in the third quarter, but she just could not get any help from her teammates. A corner three by Brauncut the lead to seven points at 39-32, but Minnesota then followed that up with several more turnovers and missed shots. Minnesota kept the lead near 10 for most of the quarter but another flurry of turnovers and missed shots let PSU end the third quarter on a 5-0 run to push the lead to 15 at 56-41.
With 6;40 left in the game Penn State still had a 15 point lead, and it appeared they had the game in hand. But Minnesota had other ideas. Another Braun three with 5:49 cut the lead to twelve and a Gradwell three cut it back to single digits with 4:36 left.
The teams traded baskets before Amaya Battle scored five points in a row to cut the lead to five. The teams traded empty posessions before Lindsay Whalen called time out to set up a play with Minnesota down five with 1:15 to play. Gradwell drained her third three of the game and then the Nittany Lions threw the ball away giving the Gophers a chance to tie or take the lead with 59.2 seconds to play.
Minnesota would tie it when they found Micheaux in the post for a layup. it was 66 all with 45.7 to play. Minnesota had come back from down 15 in less than six minutes.
But once again they could not avoid shooting themselves in their own foot. After a foul PSU inbounded below the Gopher net and found a wide open Makenna Marisa off a screen for an easy layup plus a foul. She made the free throw to put PSU back up 3 69-66 with 30.2 to play.
Minnesota inbounded to Battle and she drove the lane missing her layup but was fouled trying to gather the rebound. She hit one of two free throws cutting the lead to 69-67 with 24 seconds to play. After PSU made one of two free throws on the other end, The Gophers had one last good look. Battle drove the lane again and tried a 12-foot runner from the side of the hoop and missed. After a held ball call the Gophers had one last chance to make a play and nearly did. Penn State inbounded under their own net and Micheaux knocked the ball away from a Nittany Lions player. A mad scramble for the ball went all the way down to the frontcourt before Minnesota could finally foul a Nittany Lion player with just 2.5 seconds left. PSU hit both free throws and would win he game 72-67.
Whalen and her team were understandably disappointed after the game. Whalen stated how proud she was of her team to battle back and not give up when they were down big early. Braun and Gradwell talked about how they thought they had this game after they came back to tie it. Battle reiterated that she and the other three freshmen for Minnesota had all signed a lease for an apartment for next school year and were living together and had no plans to head anywhere else. They plan on sticking together, getting better and coming back next fall a much improved team.
Whalen did not discuss her future which was not unexpected. From all accounts she is planning on returning for her sixth season on the Gophers bench next year and is looking forward to an influx of additional talent from incoming transfer Sophie Hart from North Carolina State and a pair of international talents in Czech wing Dominika Paurova and Canadian wing Ajok Madol. Who else will be returning for next year’s team will still yet to be told.