With any hope of an NCAA tournament at-large bid gone months ago, the Gophers women's basketball team has been looking to build momentum heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Momentum is a funny thing.
The Gophers had all of it on Sunday after building a 12-point lead with 13 minutes, 24 seconds to play in the second half against 10th-ranked Michigan State. Coach Pam Borton even used her arms to try to pump up the crowd of 4,578 and keep the momentum on the rise in Williams Arena.
Then the Spartans (25-4, 13-3 Big Ten), outright conference champions, closed the game on a 32-6 run to defeat the Gophers 65-51.
Now the Gophers (12-17, 4-12) will head to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis as losers of five of their past six games, hoping to close a tough season on a high note.
"I think we can play with anybody," Borton said multiple times after the loss, "but we've got to be able to finish games and do it as a collective group.
"When the game's on the line, great teams find a way to win basketball games, and they did."
The Gophers have lost five games this season -- four at home -- after holding double-digit leads in the second half.
"Once they went on that run, it kind of halted our momentum, and it just kind of stopped us," said guard China Antoine, who scored only three points and committed four of the team's 22 turnovers on Senior Day.
After the Gophers dominated the post in the first half, Michigan State won the battle on the glass 22-9 in the second half, including 10 offensive rebounds that led to 15 points.
"I think after the first half they kind of got a little irritated with us," said sophomore center Katie Loberg, who had team highs of 19 points and seven rebounds but went scoreless for the final 8:44.
Michigan State redshirt junior forward Lykendra Johnson scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half, and senior Kalisha Keane added 19 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
Kiara Buford, the Gophers' leading scorer this season, had only 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting.