Starting the most difficult stretch of its season, the Gophers women's basketball team's offense ran out of gas Sunday at Williams Arena.
The final: No. 13 Michigan 77, Gophers 41.
This was the first of four consecutive games against nationally ranked teams in the top six of the Big Ten standings. The Gophers have Indiana (No. 6 before Monday's new rankings) on Wednesday, then games at Illinois (No. 22) and Ohio State (No. 2). Somehow, some way, the Gophers have to find a way to score.
"Offensively, we took some tough shots," coach Lindsay Whalen said. "We need to find ways to continue to get easier shots. We took a lot of contested shots. It's something we need to continue to watch and work on."
The 41 points mark the team's lowest scoring total since February 2010. The Gophers (9-12, 2-8 Big Ten) shot 30.5% (18-for-59), and Michigan turned their 21 turnovers turned into 21 points.
Minnesota was down eight after a quarter and down 11 at the half.
But things really got tough in the third quarter. The Gophers shot 3-for-15 with five turnovers while being outscored 27-7. Michigan was up 10 after Amaya Battle drove for a score with 7:32 left in the quarter. Over the next 3½ minutes, the Gophers went 0-for-5 with four turnovers while Michigan scored 17 straight points.
In their two games since shooting 50% in a victory at Penn State, the Gophers have averaged 48.5 points and shot 28.9%.
"Some of it, at times, is us being a little complacent," Whalen said. "But [the Wolverines] are a really good defensive team. They put you in spots that are tough. In the first half I liked a lot of the looks we got. The second half there were more contested ones. We get to where we're standing a little bit and watching and we have to keep cutting, keep moving."
When the Gophers did go to the pick-and-roll, they struggled to create space with effective picks.
Battle (10 points on 4-for-16 shooting) and center Rose Micheaux (15 points, 7-for-14) were the only two Gophers in double figures. Micheaux also had eight rebounds.
"I feel there were times when we were stagnant," Battle said. "But there were other times when we had good pace and good ball movement and we were getting what we wanted. We just couldn't finish."
The Wolverines (17-5, 7-4) shot nearly 44% while breaking a two-game losing streak, turning 13 offensive rebounds into a 13-2 edge on second-chance points and outscoring the Gophers 46-26 in the paint. Laila Phelia scored a game-high 22 points and Leigha Brown added 20.
The Gophers have two days of practice to work on the offense before Indiana comes to town.
"You have to control the controllables," Micheaux said. "That's your energy, attitude. We have to execute on offense and get back and play even harder defense."