EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Gophers women’s basketball team could have taken a big step toward its first NCAA tournament berth since 2009 with a victory Monday night.
Instead, though, the Gophers fell behind by double digits less than nine minutes into their game against No. 21 Michigan State, never recovering on their way to a 75-61 loss before an announced 5,703 at the Breslin Center.
Tori Jankoska scored 16 of her 21 points in the first half, including four three-pointers, for the Spartans, who led 25-11 midway through the first half. By the time the Gophers got within single digits again, at 64-55, only 3 minutes, 54 seconds remained in the game.
The Gophers (17-11, 6-8 Big Ten) will try to clinch a .500 conference record with two games at Williams Arena to close out the regular season. They play Indiana on Thursday and Ohio State on Sunday.
MSU made seven of 11 three-point attempts in the first half, when the Spartans shot 58.1 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, the Gophers shot 34.9 percent for the game in losing to Michigan State for the seventh time in eight meetings.
Rachel Banham, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, scored 31 points for the Gophers (17-11, 6-8 Big Ten), but she did so on 11-for-30 shooting, including 2-for-9 from three-point range. Still it was an improvement from her last outing, when she went 1-for-17 in a home loss to Purdue.
With her 22nd point, Banham surpassed Janel McCarville for the No. 5 spot on the Gophers’ career scoring register. The junior guard sits at 1,845 points.
The Spartans (19-8, 11-3) are tied in the conference loss column with No. 16 Nebraska and No. 8 Penn State, after the host Cornhuskers routed the Lady Lions 94-74 on Monday night.
Michigan State’s leading scorer, freshman Aerial Powers, fouled out with 8:59 left, finishing with seven points. Powers received a technical foul after saying something about her fourth personal foul.
“She said something, but she didn’t say it to [the official] and everyone has a moment out there where they might not use the most appropriate language. It shouldn’t be an instant technical,” Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said.