In just short of seven minutes Monday at Williams Arena, the game went from contentious to calamitous, the Minnesota offense grinding to a frustrating halt.
This has happened before.
But, perhaps, not this precipitously.
Ahead by two points in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, the Gophers women’s basketball team went the next 6 minutes, 57 seconds without a point as an Ohio State team — missing its top scorer — ran off 16 in a row. By the time the run was over, the Buckeyes had a 14-point lead en route to a 65-55 victory in front of an announced 3,740.
Afterward, first-year coach Lindsay Whalen seemed as frustrated about her team’s defense as she was the offense.
“Unfortunately, the shots didn’t fall,’’ she said. “But defensively, at some point, we just got totally out of sorts. We gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter. When you’re not scoring you have to stay that much more committed to the defensive end. Because that’s when the floodgates opened.”
For the 13-7 Gophers, who lost their third consecutive and seventh in eight games, an 11-0 nonconference start has morphed into a 2-7 start to Big Ten Conference play for a team that has found the second half to be doubly difficult.
Monday’s final quarter was a stark example. Taiye Bello, who had a strong game with 12 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks, scored on 12-foot jumper 41 seconds into the period that put the Gophers up 45-43.
Over the next seven minutes? The Gophers went 0-for-5 and turned the ball over four times. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, got four points from Aaliyah Patty, five from Carly Santoro and four from Makayla Waterman in that 16-0 run that put Ohio State up 59-45 with about 2½ minutes left.
Bello and Destiny Pitts, who had 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting — Pitts made five of nine three-pointers — scored 31 of the Gophers’ points and were a combined 12-for-24. The rest of the Gophers were a combined 6-for-36. Kenisha Bell had 16 points but shot 3-for-11 from the field.
“We need to get tougher as a team. Physically and mentally. The Big Ten is tough. We have to have a tough mind-set.”
The Buckeyes (8-10, 4-5), playing without leading scorer Dorka Juhasz, broke a two-game losing streak.
This tale of two halves included Ohio State adjusting on defense after Pitts scored 13 first-half points. On the other end the Buckeyes went inside more often as the game progressed, scoring 18 points in the paint in the second half and 10 in the fourth quarter.
Patty scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the second half. Santoro finished with 16.
“It’s very frustrating,’’ Pitts said. We know how well we played in the first half. It seems like these last couple games, the second half we haven’t been focusing on the game plan. We need to get tougher as a team. Physically and mentally. The Big Ten is tough. We have to have a tough mind-set.’’
Whalen said her team started pressing as that fourth-quarter Buckeyes run progressed. After shooting 36.7 percent in the first half, Ohio State 56 percent while outscoring the Gophers 40-27 over the third and fourth quarters.
“There is only so long your defense can hold,’’ Whalen said. “I felt like we got some good looks again. We have to see what we can do better, what we can focus on, to make things go smoother on offense. … It feels like at a certain point, when we’re having trouble scoring, we press and we turned it over. It’s tough.’’