Gophers women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings has praised her team’s maturity in recent games. After all, they knocked off two top-25 opponents recently.
In the season’s home finale, however, the coach was disappointed in her cold-shooting team’s maturity level during an 82-70 loss to a red-hot Indiana team Tuesday night in front of an announced 3,477 fans at Williams Arena.
It’s a loss that “stings,” Stollings said, for her team with hopes of making the NCAA tournament.
“You can’t relax when you have a couple big wins,” Stollings said. “You’ve got to keep fighting.”
The loss dropped the fourth-place Gophers to 10-5 in the Big Ten with one conference game remaining against Illinois, which is 0-14 in conference play. Iowa is 9-5; Michigan and Indiana are 9-6. The top four teams receive a double-bye into the quarterfinals of next weekend's conference tournament in Indianapolis.
Senior Carlie Wagner was the bright spot for the Gophers with a season-high 34 points. She made a three-pointer in the third quarter to jump into third place among Gophers career scoring leaders. Her 2,106 career points trail only two players: Rachel Banham (3,093) and Lindsay Whalen (2,285).
The good news ended there as the Gophers struggled. They were without sophomore guard Gadiva Hubbard, who was out for medical reasons, according to Stollings. The coach added that she didn’t think her team responded well to missing Hubbard, who averages 13.7 points per game and scored 22 vs. Maryland and 17 vs. Michigan in upsets in the past week.
“Defensively, did a lot of great things, but we didn’t do a lot with the ball once we got it back,” Stollings said.
The Gophers forced 23 turnovers and had 18 steals but scored only 26 points off turnovers. Indiana also won the rebound battle 42-39. Stollings said she was disappointed in her team’s reaction to those empty possessions.
“Rather than going and getting the ball, I thought we hung our head a little bit,” Stollings said. “And they [Indiana] ran the ball right back down our throat.”
The Gophers shot only 35.1 percent for the game, including 28.2 percent in the second half. Wagner also pointed out they could have attacked more once Indiana got into foul trouble.
“We should’ve been driving harder from the beginning,” Wagner said.
The Gophers got off to a quick 7-0 start, but it turned out to be their biggest lead of the night after Indiana responded with a 6-0 run of its own. It was back-and-forth from there. The game was tight throughout and tied 15 times, including 19-19 at the end of the first quarter. The Gophers trailed 42-40 at the half.
The Gophers, a 41.2 percent shooting team from beyond the arc, went just 2-for-22 on three-pointers a game after hitting 14 of them against Maryland. Both made threes came from Wagner. On the other end, Indiana hit 12 treys on 23 attempts.
Wagner, along with senior teammates Jessie Edwards and Bryanna Fernstrom, were honored before the game for Senior Night. Wagner is the only one of the three who has played for the Gophers for the past four years.
“This is my home away from home,” Wagner said. “It’s been an amazing ride, and it’s not over.”
The loss ended a six-game home winning streak for the Gophers. It was just their second loss at home this season (13-2) as they finished their four-game homestand with a 3-1 record.
The Hoosiers won their eighth game in a row, continuing the longest active streak in the Big Ten after they started conference play 1-6. They were led by their top scorer, senior Tyra Buss, who finished with 36 points, hitting seven three-pointers.