EAST LANSING, Mich. - Call it a slump, or at least a mini-slump. The Gophers women’s basketball team is going through a rough stretch following a blazing start.
The good news is that sophomore guard Destiny Pitts is showing signs of breaking out of her slide.
Another shaky performance led to the Gophers’ third straight defeat, an 86-68 pounding by No. 23 Michigan State at the Breslin Center on Wednesday night.
No. 18 Minnesota (12-3 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) made 19 turnovers, leading to 23 Spartans points. The Gophers forced just eight turnovers while allowing the Spartans to shoot 48.6 percent from the field.
“They got after us a little bit,” coach Lindsay Whalen said. “Any time you have that many turnovers, it’s going to be tough. Give them credit, they played hard and worked hard. We came in and competed, but they were just better than us tonight.”
The Gophers were down by double digits most of the way after committing seven first-quarter turnovers. Unlike their last road game, when Michigan’s half-court pressure led to giveaways, most of Minnesota’s turnovers against the Spartans came in half-court sets.
“Michigan State did a good job of taking us out of our stuff,” Pitts said. “We kind of struggled a little bit, and we didn’t adjust that well. They kind of got us in a little hole and we struggled coming back.”
Pitts, last season Big Ten Freshman of the Year, has been trying to rediscover her shooting touch. In the two previous losses, she scored a combined eight points despite playing virtually the entire way.
In the past four games, she shot 26 percent from the field and 4-for-29 from beyond the arc. Her three-point stroke was still off Wednesday, as she went 1-for-8. But she made all five of her two-pointers and finished with 15 points and three assists.
“I feel like I’ve got to get in a good rhythm early in order to get going in the game,” she said. “I think I did that really well tonight.”
Late in the first quarter, she scored on a dribble drive, set up an Annalese Lamke layup and hit a pullup three.
There were some other good offensive moments sprinkled throughout the game. She hit a turnaround jumper, curled to the elbow for another jumper and posted up a smaller guard for a baseline score.
Pitts won two state championships for Detroit Country Day on the same court.
“I love playing at Breslin,” she said. “I feel like I play really well here. I have good memories from back in high school. I love being in the state of Michigan and playing in front of my family. I was fortunate to do that tonight.”
Senior guard Kenisha Bell was her usual solid self with 20 points and eight rebounds but the defense sagged against the Spartans (12-3, 2-2).
“She [Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant] runs some great stuff,” Whalen said. “They have some really talented players. They had a good game plan. They spread us out and it ended up being a long night for us.”
The Gophers haven’t defeated a Top 25 team on the road since they beat No. 23 Notre Dame in the opening round of the 2009 NCAA tournament.