The Gophers women's basketball team has very little time and a lot to do before opening the Big Ten season Wednesday against Michigan State.
• Try to flush the drubbing they took from Drake on Sunday at Williams Arena, a one-sided game from the opening tip that ended up a 99-66 loss.
• Try to learn from the defensive mistakes that allowed Drake to shoot nearly 50%, make half of its three-pointers and seemingly score at will from both the perimeter and in the paint.
This all while getting rest for a limited lineup that has played a lot of minutes in two nonconference games. The Gophers (1-1) hope to get healthier before the Spartans come to town.
"Obviously a tough one for us,'' said coach Lindsay Whalen after Drake matched the highest opponent point total in her two-plus years as coach. "Give them credit. We have some things to work on, clearly.''
To be fair, Drake is a pretty good veteran team. But the Bulldogs (2-2) had lost two in a row heading into this game. And the Gophers — who got freshman Caroline Strande back from injury — were still limited to eight available players. Whalen hopes Sara Scalia, Laura Bagwell-Katalinich and freshman Alexis Smith will be available Wednesday.
Still. The lack of communication on defense and lack of flow on offense are huge concerns early in a season in which practice time has been spotty because of the coronavirus.
"We'll learn from this game,'' Whalen said. "We'd better. That's a really good team, but we have to turn the page quick. Two nonconference games and on to the Big Ten.''
It started early.
The Bulldogs made 11 of 15 shots overall and five of six three-pointers in the first quarter, which ended with Drake up 33-17. Kierra Collier had 10 of her game-high 24 points in the quarter — she was one of five Bulldogs in double figures.
Drake's pace clearly put the Gophers on their heels. In the first 10 minutes the Bulldogs got 10 of their 11 field goals — with assists on all those makes — from either behind the three-point line or on a layup.
Drake led by 16 after a quarter, by 22 at the half. Then the Gophers managed just one point in the first five minutes of the third quarter, and a 14-1 run by Drake that put the Bulldogs up 70-35. Drake had a 16-6 edge on points off turnovers, a 24-6 edge on points from free throws.
Whalen talked about the transition defense. Jasmine Powell, who led the Gophers with 22 points, talked about problems one-on-one.
"It needs a little work,'' she said. "We had to help a little too much, and they got a lot of open threes. It was threes or layups with them. Their pace was really quick and fast. We had to adjust, and we adjusted a little late.''
Gadiva Hubbard made four of nine three-pointers and had 17 points for the Gophers. Kadi Sissoko, accidentally omitted from the starting lineup turned in, entered the game at the first whistle. She finished with 12 points and nine rebounds but shot just 6-for-22.
"I think we're not communicating enough on defense,'' Hubbard said. "A lot of times they got points off of cuts, off back doors and screens. We have to talk through those a little more. I think we just got caught.''
They have a couple of days to find their way.
"In the last five weeks we've had 17 practices,'' Whalen said. "It will take games and take time. We just have to keep working every day with this group.''