Given the struggles the team has faced of late, it would be easy to look at the second half of the Gophers women's basketball team's 77-54 loss to fourth-ranked Indiana at Williams Arena on Wednesday and give the team credit for how it finished the game.
But, given the reality of another loss — their third straight — you cannot forget how it began.
A turnover-filled first half put the Gophers (9-13, 2-9 Big Ten) into a 41-20 hole. Against one of the best teams in the country, one that has now won nine in a row, that hole was too deep.
Indiana (21-1, 11-1) got a spectacular performance from forward Mackenzie Holmes, who hit 12 of 14 shots and scored 28 points. With impeccable footwork and a nice spin move, she proved to be almost unstoppable. Sydney Parrish added 23 for Indiana on 8-for-12 shooting. Former Gophers player Sara Scalia scored 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting. The Hoosiers shot 50.8%.
Minnesota was led by Mallory Heyer, who scored 16 points with eight rebounds. Mara Braun scored 13 points. Center Rose Micheaux had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
In the final 20 minutes it was a competitive game, with Indiana holding just a two-point edge.
And that was what coach Lindsay Whalen was focusing on afterward. Falling behind 41-15 with two minutes to go in the first half isn't acceptable. But outscoring Indiana 39-36 the rest of the way was encouraging.
"There is a lot we can take away as far as how we competed,'' Whalen said. "Coming out of the gates we wanted a better start. But this group competes.''
Again there were too many mistakes, starting with a season-high 29 turnovers the Hoosiers turned into a 30-9 edge in points off turnovers.
"We talk about it,'' said Braun. "It's about going back to the fundamentals. Jump-stopping, finding the open person.''
Still, this has been a seasonlong problem. When the Gophers are taking care of the ball, they're competitive.
Down 21 at the half, the Gophers made seven of 14 shots and committed just four turnovers while opening the third quarter on a 20-11 run that pulled them within 52-40 on Braun's three-pointer with 2:15 left.
But the Gophers went 0-for-4 with two turnovers turned into Indiana buckets as the Hoosiers finished the quarter 6-0 to go back up 18 entering the fourth.
"We've said it a lot this year,'' Whalen said. "We have to do better. There are some stretches in games when we keep the turnovers down. But we end up having to overcome too much.''
Whalen knows this is about wins and losses, but she liked the way her team kept competing. Micheaux scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half. After turning the ball over five times in the first half, she had just two turnovers in the second. Heyer scored 14 of her 16 in the second half, Braun eight of her 13.
"It's not in character for this team to give up,'' Braun said. "No matter the score. That's something our team really holds each other accountable for. If someone isn't giving their all, it's next person up. Keep fighting, even if the out come isn't what we want.''