Lindsay Whalen sees a team working hard. Every day, she said. In practice and in games. On both ends of the court.
But the results, right now, just aren’t there.
Again Thursday, her Gophers women’s basketball team held an upper-division opponent to 64 points. The Gophers defended hard, though there were cracks to be seen down the stretch. But they just couldn’t score enough in a 64-53 loss to Purdue at Williams Arena in front of 5,572 fans.
“These guys are playing so hard,’’ Whalen said. “Every possession. This is not for a lack of effort. These kids are in the gym all the time, shooting. I feel for them. But I know it will pay off at some point. I told ’em, the hard work will pay off.’’
For now, unfortunately, difficulty scoring has led to a second straight loss and the sixth in seven games for Minnesota (13-6, 2-6 Big Ten).
Up by a point at halftime, the Gophers made only 11 of 34 second-half shots. A 13-3 Purdue run put the Boilermakers (15-6, 6-2) up seven with 3:40 left in the third quarter and Purdue never trailed again. The Gophers pulled with four points twice in the fourth quarter — the last time on Taiye Bello’s put-back with 4:08 left. But Purdue finished the game on a 12-5 run.
Pitts had a good night shooting, making five of 11 three-pointers and scoring 19 points. Senior guard Kenisha Bell had 17 points, with 14 coming in the second half. But the rest of the Gophers managed only 12 points in the final two quarters.
Purdue got 17 points from Karissa McLaughlin. Forward Ae’Rianna Harris had 13, all of them in the second half as Purdue did a better job of running its offense inside-out. Dominique Oden had 14.
Purdue’s offense got better as the game wore on; the Boilermakers were 7-for-9 on fourth-quarter shots. Though, to be fair, a few of them were well-contested.
And that was the difference. Purdue made some difficult shots. The Gophers couldn’t answer.
There just weren’t enough people scoring. Bell, Pitts and Annalese Lamke (nine points) scored 45 of the Gophers’ 53 points. The Gophers bench scored only two points. The Boilermakers, meanwhile — not a team known for a deep rotation — got 14 points off their bench; 10 from Cassidy Hardin, who was a plus-20 in 20 minutes played.
Purdue shot 46.3 percent from the field for the game, the Gophers 31.3 percent.
As has been the case many times this season, the Gophers led early but were outscored late, this time 38-26 in the second half.
To Whalen, there is only one thing the team can do.
“Stay the course,” she said, emphatically. Thursday she juggled her starting lineup, starting Irene Garrido Perez in place of Jasmine Brunson at one guard, looking for a spark. She noted that turnovers (eight) were down and assists (15) were up.
“We’re making strides,” she said. “You can see areas where there is progress. It doesn’t feel like it right now. It doesn’t feel great. But we have to stick together, work.”
Bell vowed that’s what the team would do. Still, has the recent stretch made it difficult to keep playing hard?
“Not if you want it,” Bell said. “Our team has been working very hard. We know we want it.
“Each game we’ll work as hard as we have to to get that win.”
And eventually, Whalen said, things will turn.
“At some point, hopefully, the shots will fall and the floodgates will open,” she said.