It was, frustratingly, so familiar.
For a brief moment Monday in Evanston, Ill., against the 16th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats, the Gophers women's basketball team had a lead, when Sara Scalia took a pass from Klarke Sconiers and banked home a three-pointer in the first minute of the Big Ten Conference game.
For the next 5 minutes and 13 seconds the Gophers did not score. Missed shots and turnovers took over.
And zoom: The unbeaten Wildcats (2-0) scored the next 17 points, taking hold of the game and never letting go.
The final: 80-51.
"First possession of the game, I think, we turned it over," Whalen said. "There were three, four turnovers in the first few moments. We have to figure out what we need to do to make sure we come out and we're able to have success."
Like last week against Michigan State, turnovers led to a slow start from which the Gophers (1-3) could not escape. The Spartans scored 30 points off Gophers turnovers, Northwestern had 26.
But this time there was more.
The veteran Wildcats, last season's co-champs in the conference, came out with a small, quick lineup that gave the Gophers fits all night. With four players scoring in double figures — led by Veronica Burton (20 points and 10 assists) and Sydney Wood (19 points and eight rebounds), the Wildcats used active defense and efficient offense to hand the Gophers their third straight loss.
The Wildcats had a 26-9 edge on points off turnovers, a 22-2 edge on the break and outscored Minnesota 46-16 in the paint, getting one layup after another out of an offense that managed 28 assists on 32 made shots.
"It's really frustrating,'' said Kadi Sissoko, who scored 14 points — including all seven Gophers points in the third quarter — and had nine rebounds. "But I know that my team and all my teammates are going to work hard every day to make better plays at the beginning of games."
Sissoko and Jasmine Powell (15 points, seven assists), combined for 29 points and 14 boards, but also 13 turnovers.
The Gophers got within nine in the second quarter, but another scoring slump led to a 10-0 Northwestern run. The Wildcats led by 15 at the half, by 25 entering the fourth quarter.
There will be time to work. Whalen had 11 players available, with the return of Laura Bagwell-Katalinich. There is a chance that by the time the Gophers play next — Dec. 23 vs. Indiana — post player Kayla Mershon will have received a transfer waiver from the NCAA.
There will be ample practice time. But there is so much work to be done. Apparent communication breakdowns at both ends of the floor were leading to easy baskets allowed on defense and making good shots hard to come by on offense.
"I told everybody on the team we have to look at ways they can help improve themselves to help the team,'' Whalen said. "We all have to be better, and it starts with me. The biggest thing is stick together. We're all we have. We're in this together."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.