Leading scorer Rachel Banham made only one of 17 shots as the Gophers’ four-game winning streak came to an end.
The pressure seemed to be lifted.
Gophers players were describing the atmosphere around the team as relaxed, confident even. They talked about, finally, feeling comfortable in their respective roles.
That’s what four consecutive victories will do for a team that just a month ago was 2-6 in Big Ten play.
Three of those recent victories came on the road, three came despite trailing at halftime, and all four came with key players out because of injuries.
The Gophers kept finding ways to win.
After beating Northwestern by 18 points Saturday with just seven players available, the Gophers had climbed to .500 in the Big Ten and moved up to No. 30 in the RPI rankings. A berth in the NCAA tournament appeared to be within the team’s grasp.
Then No. 21 Purdue came to Williams Arena on Thursday.
And the Little Team That Could finally ran out of steam.
The Gophers shot a season-low 26.8 percent, were outrebounded 55-32 and fell 63-42 to the Boilermakers.
Again playing with just seven players available, the Gophers were visibly gassed in the second half. Five Gophers played at least 29 minutes in a physical, difficult matchup.
“It’s a grind and it’s the end of the Big Ten season,” coach Pam Borton said, shrugging off the loss as simply “one of those nights.”
“We just didn’t have it offensively,” she added.
The Boilermakers shot only slightly better at 34.9 percent, but a quick start — they led by as many as 15 points in the opening 10 minutes — and 27 points from Courtney Moses enabled them to pull away.
The Gophers (17-10, 6-7 Big Ten) struggled from start to finish.
Apart from senior Sari Noga, who scored 15 points, it was difficult to find any bright spots on offense.
Rachel Banham, who has played all but four minutes over the past five games, missed her first 14 shots. She finished 1-for-17 shooting (0-for-8 on three-pointers) and had eight points.
|Real Salt Lake||2|
|(7) Florida State||74||FINAL|
|(3) South Carolina||80|
|(2) Notre Dame||77|
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