Finally, a solid first quarter.
After four straight games of slow starts to open the season, the Gophers women's basketball team finally outscored its opponent in the opening period, albeit by one.
But the good early work didn't hold up. The No. 19 Hoosiers got going early in the second quarter, and the Gophers never recovered. Indiana defeated Minnesota 75-54 Wednesday at Williams Arena.
The Gophers (1-4, 0-4 Big Ten) won't play again until 2021 when they travel to Madison, Wis., to face the Badgers on Jan. 3.
In the new year, the Gophers will want to try to replicate Wednesday's first quarter. The Gophers employed a 1-2-2 defense that slowed Indiana's potent offense while Minnesota shot 40% from the field, above its season average of 37.4%. A deep three-pointer from guard Alexia Smith at the quarter buzzer gave the Gophers a 16-15 lead.
Until this game, Minnesota had been outscored 95-56 in the first quarter of games.
"We dug down defensively," grad transfer Laura Bagwell-Katalinich said. "We didn't allow ourselves to be put in that hole."
At least not until the second quarter. Then, the Hoosiers surged. Mackenzie Holmes scored off a layup to spark a 12-2 run and give Indiana a lead it never gave up.
"They were very sneaky in how they crept ahead," Bagwell-Katalinich said. "They went on little runs, and we didn't necessarily cut those runs like we needed to."
Holmes was a big reason why. She and Grace Berger each scored seven points in the second quarter. Holmes finished with 19 points. Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen called her an all-conference-caliber player.
"She fights hard," Bagwell-Katalinich said. "She goes back and she gets second chances. She is just always active."
While Indiana continued to build on its lead, the Gophers offense stumbled. Kadi Sissoko, who entered second on the team in points per game with 15, didn't score until the final minute of the third quarter and had only six points, as did Gadiva Hubbard, who averages 11.8.
"That's a great defensive team over there," Whalen said. "[Sissoko and Hubbard] are at the top of the scouting report. We've got to find ways to make it easier for them on the court. Some shots that I liked just didn't go."
Whalen, although dissatisfied with the loss, thought Wednesday featured some of the best team basketball the Gophers have played this season. That it came in a 21-point loss shows they have a ways to go to be competitive in the Big Ten.
But the Gophers hope more time together will translate to improvement. They had a fully available roster for the first time this season Wednesday. Transfer Kayla Mershon, a Minnetonka native, made her debut.
Sophomore guard Jasmine Powell said the Gophers need time to learn each other's tendencies better.
"Putting people in the best situations possible," Powell said. "Kadi, knowing she wants to come off double screens, knowing she wants to come off ball screens on the left. Just knowing where we can put people where they are going to be successful and what they like to do. Sara [Scalia] is a shooter. Laura [Bagwell-Katalinich] likes to be on the left block. Klarke [Sconiers] likes to be on the right. Just knowing your teammates and knowing when to set them up."
The Star Tribune did not have a reporter in attendance in-person for this game. This article was written using the broadcast on BTN-plus and video interviews after the game.