Friday, January 4, 2008

Iowa wasn't the only place where losing took place

In keeping in spirit what was transpiring in the state just south of Minnesota, Goldy Gopher, the University of Minnesota's nonsensical mascot held up a homemade sign during a timeout, "Will causus for Gophers."
As did every presidential candidate, save for Barack Obama and Mike Hucklebee, the home team lost Thursday night.
"It was a fun game to watch," Iowa Hawkeyes Coach Lisa Bluder said afterwards. "It's a lot more fun when you are on the winning side."
Both squads traded misfired back and forth at their respective baskets for the first four minutes of the extra five minutes of Thursday's Minnesota-Iowa contest. Iowa and Minnesota combined for 10 shots, and each team made only one.
Only two made free throws by Kristi Smith, who didn't connect on her only field goal attempt but got fouled by the Gophers' Emily Fox, finally broke a 64-64 tie, which was the score at the end of regulation.
Seconds later, Leslie Knight hit a layup to knot the score at 66 apiece. However, it would be Minnesota's final basket. With 13 ticks left, Smith found Krista VandeVenter, who swished a jumper to give her team the winning margin -- 68-66.
Brittany McCoy could've tied the game but badly missed on her drive to the basket with a second left, and Minnesota (11-4, 2-1) suffered its first Big Ten loss of the season.
As painful as it was for Sen. Joseph Biden and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, along with Fred Thompson, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Ron Paul to watch the final tallies in Iowa, it was equally painful to watch the home team's performance Thursday in Williams Arena. Unlike Bluder, Minnesota Coach Pam Borton didn't especially find the game enjoyable.
"We were lucky to go into overtime with the performance we had tonight," she admitted.
The Gopher starting backcourt were Casper-like, it was that frightful: McCoy shot 1-for-7, and although Fox shot 6-for-17 and finished with 15 points, she missed a jumper with 10 seconds left that could have gave her team the win.
Their frontcourt wasn't that much better: Korinne Campbell (2-for-6) and Zoe Harper (1-for-6) missed easy layup chances. Only Ashley Ellis-Milan (13 points on 6-for-9 shooting) and Leslie Knight, who led all scorers with 18 points (8-for-12) displayed any semblance of markswomanship all night.
Minnesota led 64-62 with 1:50 left in regulation, but didn't capitalize on it. Of three lead changes in the second half, it would be the hosts' final advantage: VandeVenter, Iowa's 6-2 senior forward who had 10 points, later banked in a shot to tie up the game.
It was one of many defensive opportunities that the Gophers squandered all night. Overall, the defense, which could only please Pepe LePew because it basically stunk.
"We couldn't get stops," noted Borton. "We didn't get the stops we needed down the stretch. Not all of us were on the same page defensively."
Added Fox, "Some people were playing hard defense, and some weren't. We were all over the place. We got to fix that."
Perhaps their first conference home loss of the season will scare the bejeevees out of Minnesota, and scare them into playing better. The Gophers came into the game, sharing first place with Illinois, after one week of Big Ten play. Knight was named player of the week, her first for the U-M senior. The players have had nearly a month off of classes, and knocked off Michigan State and Purdue.
However, two wins don't make a season, unless you are in the Final Four in March or April.
Minnesota swaggered in Thursday, and slinked out afterwards. They aren't that good to start pumping out their chests.
The Gophers must be on one accord, with everyone knowing what is going on, to be successful. They are still a relatively young team, and it showed that night, especially when bad shots were taken, and defensive lapses ruled.
"It is a long Big Ten season," said Borton, reminding us that 14 games remains on the schedule. Their next two games are on the road: Wisconsin (Jan. 7) and Illinois (Jan. 10). "But our whole team needs to show up for us to win," she added. "When only 2-3 people are carrying the load, we are not very good."
This fact was crystal clear Thursday night.

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