ANN ARBOR, MICH. – Trap games usually involve a powerhouse team overlooking an underrated opponent before a big game.
The 12th-ranked Gophers women’s basketball team faced a much different trap game on Monday afternoon. The traps involved steady half-court pressure from Michigan, and the Gophers didn’t handle it well in a 76-60 loss at Crisler Center.
A 12-0 start to the season — tied for the second best in school history — was swept away in the undertow of 22 turnovers and 26 points off those giveaways. The Wolverines (10-4, 1-1 Big Ten) finished the first half on a 21-2 run, scoring the last 14 points.
“We’ve seen a 1-2-2 [press] before, but their length and quickness really bothered us,” said Lindsay Whalen, who finally lost her first game as Gophers coach. “That kind of led to the runouts and they got some momentum. Give them credit, they played a really good game, and it was just a tough night for us after the first quarter.”
The 12-game winning streak, which propelled the Gophers into the national rankings, is tied for the third longest in Gophers history.
But even during the streak, the Gophers sometimes struggled to take care of the ball. They’ve had 23 turnovers on two occasions.
“We kind of beat ourselves in the second quarter,” said junior Taiye Bello, who had seven turnovers. “They had a lot of transition points and capitalized on our turnovers.”
Bello led the Gophers with a career-best 24 points while making all nine of her field goal attempts. She’s one of only five Gophers in program history to make at least nine field goal tries in a game without missing.
The game got away from the Gophers in the final seven minutes of the first half. Michigan’s pressure allowed it to turn a 20-19 deficit into a 40-22 advantage. The Wolverines turned the Gophers’ 14 first-half turnovers into 19 points.
The Gophers, who beat Wisconsin at home in their Big Ten opener on Friday, trailed by double digits throughout the second half with the Wolverines leading by as many as 26 points.
“Just a learning experience,” said guard Kenisha Bell, who had just 12 points on 4-for-18 shooting. “We’ve been winning and we played a competitive team. We’ll just learn from the mistakes we made. We had a decent amount of turnovers, and we were just not playing to our tempo. We’ve just got to learn how to keep our pace no matter what team we’re playing.”
Minnesota rarely loses the rebounding battle, but Michigan had a 39-32 advantage in that area, including 17 on the offensive end.
“To just win a game in the Big Ten, you’ve got to take care of turnovers and rebounding,” Whalen said. “The turnovers led to runouts and when we did get some stops, they were really good on the boards. That was two of the problem areas for us tonight.”
Before Monday, the Gophers had trailed for just over 38 minutes during their first 12 games.
Whalen tied her former coach, Pam Borton, for the most consecutive victories by a first-year Minnesota coach to start a season.
She would have rather held sole possession of that record.
“You’d rather learn from wins,” she said. “It hurts worse when you lose, for sure. We’ll regroup and get some practice.”