Gophers guard Katie Borowicz has grown tired of the narrative.
You know, that the Gophers women's basketball team is talented, but young. That the ups and downs are due mainly to inexperience by a team that starts Borowicz, a redshirt freshman, true freshmen Mara Braun, Mallory Heyer and Amaya Battle and sophomore center Rose Micheaux.
"I don't like people saying, 'Oh, you're young, is this why?' " Borowicz said after Wednesday's 80-74 loss to Kentucky at Williams Arena. "No.''
She was referring specifically to some crucial missed free throws Wednesday, just days after the team made 28 of 32 from the line in a double-overtime victory over Penn State.
But the fact is that, against perhaps the best opponent they have played this season, the Gophers did some very good things. They started strong. They showed grit coming back, including a late-game surge that cut an eight-point Kentucky lead to two in the final minute. As always, they played hard.
But they also turned the ball over too much, 21 times, which led to 26 points for Kentucky (7-1). They were outrebounded 46-33. There were scoring spurts followed by lapses.
"When you get outrebounded like we did, and turn the ball over like we did, it's going to be hard to win a game against a really good team,'' Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen said. "Again, we hung in there. We had some plays, late-game, to be in it. Tonight the turnovers and the rebounding is what ended up doing us in.''
After a strong 11-4 start, 10 turnovers over the final seven minutes of the first quarter turned the tide, fueling an 18-2 Kentucky run.
Like they have so many times, the Gophers (5-4) came back. They battled back from eight down in the second quarter to two at the half.
Down eight with 7:06 left in the fourth quarter, Heyer (17 points on 7-for-9 shooting) hit two threes in a 10-4 run that brought the Gophers within 76-74 when Micheaux (17 points, nine rebounds) took a pass from Braun (14 points, eight assists) and scored with 1:43 left.
Moments later Micheaux was fouled with 50 seconds left. It was a hard foul, and Micheaux appeared to fall on her hip. She got up but missed both free throws with 50 seconds left. At the other end Kentucky's Jada Walker (19 points) hit two free throws with 28 seconds left to ice the game.
"It's going to motivate us, for sure,'' Heyer said. "We've been in every single game this season. We've been close. It's been six points or less in every [loss].''
After getting her second double-double of the season in the win over Penn State, Heyer scored 17 points on just nine shots, making all three three-pointers. Borowicz played perhaps her best game yet, with 16 points, five assists and five steals.
Braun's fast start is starting to get noticed. Kentucky face-guarded her, never helped off of her, pressured her into a 5-for-13 shooting night. Adjusting to that will be the next move.
The bottom line is the Gophers played hard enough to stay in the game, but couldn't close it out.
"Now we continue to work,'' Whalen said. "We continue to work through it, as a team, as a group. Be great teammates, be good to each other. That's the next step. All of us continuing to get better."https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydx_ylYLxQw