Amanda Zahui B. scored 26 points on 11-of-11 shooting, but it wasn’t enough on a night when the Gopher women’s basketball team was far from perfect in a 90-88 overtime loss to Purdue.
The Boilermakers’ Whitney Bays hit a turnaround jumper in the lane with 3.4 seconds remaining in overtime, and when Shae Kelley’s last-second runner hit off the front of the rim, the Gophers’ hopes of mounting another comeback victory fell short at Williams Arena on Thursday.
“Just short-armed it,” Kelley said afterward. “That’s all I can say about that last shot.”
Kelley finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds and Shayne Mullaney scored 11 to go with a career-high 15 assists.
But No. 21 Minnesota (16-3, 5-2 Big Ten) couldn’t recover from an abysmal first half in which it shot only 38.2 percent from the field, gave up 50 points and trailed by 11 against a Purdue offense that came into the game averaging 59.5 points during a four-game losing streak.
Purdue (10-9, 3-5 Big Ten) had four players score 17 or more points, led by Bays’ 25. Ashley Morrissette and Liza Clemons each added 19.
“Putting up 50 points on us — that’s a lot to take in in a half at this level, and that’s a lot to overcome,” Gophers coach Marlene Stollings said. “I thought our kids did a phenomenal job fighting back in the second half and having a chance to tie it there with the last shot.”
And Minnesota, which trailed by as much as 15 early in the second half, was forced to do that without Zahui and freshman scorer Carlie Wagner down the stretch. Wagner, the hero in Sunday’s late comeback victory over Indiana, fouled out with 11 points with more than four minutes remaining. Zahui, the sophomore center who also had 11 rebounds, picked up her fifth foul at the 2:31 mark.
So the Gophers turned to Kelley.
With Minnesota trailing by three with 57.4 seconds left in regulation, the senior transfer from Old Dominion drove hard down the right side of the lane, laying the ball in while drawing contact. She hit the free throw and tied the score at 79-79.
The teams then traded missed jumpers, before Purdue held for the final shot. Morrissette drove the lane and put up a shot as time expired. Kelley contested and forced the miss.
But without Zahui in the middle in overtime, the Gophers couldn’t come up with stops. Purdue scored on five of its seven possessions, capped by Bays’ winner in the final seconds.
Defense was the biggest issue for the Gophers throughout the game, as Purdue meticulously picked apart Minnesota’s 2-3 zone. The Boilermakers shot 51.4 percent from the field (6-for-15 on threes) and had 48 points in the paint — mostly on short jumpers in the lane.
“Offensively, we’re solid. We have three kids with double-doubles,” Stollings said. “You don’t often lose on a night like that [when] you score 88 points.”