The Gophers squandered a lead with a slow second half Sunday afternoon, falling 75-63 to No. 22 Purdue at Williams Arena.
Leading 40-36 at the half, Minnesota shot 29.4 percent in the final 20 minutes. Down by just four points with two minutes left, the Gophers gave themselves a chance to win, but a lack of stops, rebounds and some ill-timed turnovers allowed the visitors to leave with a victory.
"I thought we had good looks and good shots in the paint," head coach Pam Borton said. "We just didn't finish."
Rachel Banham scored 21 points to lead the team, but 17 of them came in the first half. That prompted Purdue to change its game plan. Coach Sharon Versyp wanted to force other Gophers to beat her team, so they tightened up by constantly double-teaming the sophomore in the second half.
It worked. Banham shot only 2-for-12 to finish the game.
"I wasn't able to hit shots, and that forced other people to step up," said Banham, who also had a team-high six assists and moved into 14th-place on Minnesota's all-time scoring list. "It was definitely much harder in the second half."
Micaella Riche, Sari Noga and Kionna Kellogg each scored in double figures for the Gophers. Riche ended with 13 points and nine rebounds. Noga finished 4-for-6 from three-point range. Kellogg was 4-for-5 from the floor. The Gophers got only four points from the reserves.
"We didn't get a lot from our bench tonight, which is really what you need in a game like this," Borton said.
Purdue also had four players in double figures, including Courtney Moses with a team-high 23 points. Sam Ostarello finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Drey Mingo and Dee Dee Williams each scored 14 points.
Minnesota got off to poor starts in each half, including falling behind 7-0 right out of the gate. The Gophers recovered with a 10-2 run from Banham and Kellogg, who gave them their first lead, 10-9.
Riche got on the board with a strong move down low to put the Gophers up 19-15. Mingo tied it 21-21 with a three-pointer as both teams pushed back and forth in the first 20 minutes of play.
A Noga three-pointer put Minnesota up 29-27 with less than five minutes to go in the first half. Riche added a nice fadeaway bank shot to keep the Gophers ahead, but the Boilermakers were pesky. Moses scored 17 in the first half to pace Purdue, but with the clock winding down, Banham drained a deep three-pointer to put her team up 40-36 at the half.
Both teams were efficient in the first half, each shooting 50 percent from the field. Purdue was 6-for-9 and Minnesota 5-for-8 from three-point range.
Another slow start in the second half allowed Purdue to retake the lead behind two deep three-pointers. Noga's fourth three-pointer of the game cut the deficit to 63-59 with 5:17 left to play. A Riche steal and Banham baseline jumper brought the Gophers within two points. But Minnesota couldn't make shots down the stretch and Purdue did.
The Boilermakers entered the game with just a 30.2 three-point field-goal percentage. They finished 9-for-12 for a 75 percent rate Sunday.
The Gophers are now 0-4 against ranked opponents this season. They fell to 5-9 in the conference. They play host to Big Ten champion and seventh-ranked Penn State on Thursday.