BY MIKE PEDEN
Minnesota fans expressed concern when, at the start of Big Ten Conference play, the website RealTime RPI predicted their women's basketball team would only win one conference game: at home Thursday night against Wisconsin.
Prior to tip-off, RealTime RPI adjusted that prediction, suggesting Wisconsin would win and Minnesota would finish the season with a goose egg in the conference win column. After the Badgers defeated the Gophers 71-63 at Williams Arena, the site may signal an eerie feeling for the Gopher faithful.
"We had nine turnovers and 15 offensive rebounds. You'd think, having a game like that, you'd win the basketball game," said Minnesota head coach Pam Borton.
Minnesota (8-11, 0-6) clicked on offense in the first half, building a 16-point lead by capitalizing on their free throws. The Gophers made as many free throws as Leah Cotton scored points, both getting 15 in the first 20 minutes. Taking a 44-30 lead to the locker room at halftime, Minnesota appeared poised to win their first conference game of the season.
"We gave up too many direct-line drives," Wisconsin head coach Lisa Stone said. "Our transition defense was poor, we were late on everything. I told them 'Get there with your feet.' "
Wisconsin (10-9, 5-2) adjusted in the second half by attacking the baseline on offense and crowding the paint on defense. The Badgers took their first lead with 4:37 left in the second on a Lin Zastrow three-point play. Wisconsin never looked back as they limited Minnesota to 19 second half points on 7-of-34 shooting, capping off their second largest come-from-behind win in school history.
"Our defense affected our offense tonight," Borton said.
"We shut the driving lanes down, forced them to kick, and on the kick, we were on their feet." Stone said.
Fueling the Wisconsin surge was St. Paul native Alyssa Karel. The Cretin-Derham Hall standout scored 21 points to notch her 10th consecutive game in double-figures. Zastrow finished with a double-double, getting 21 points and 12 rebounds. The Badgers shot 64 percent from the floor in the second half.
Minnesota guard Leah Cotton scored a game-high 24 points, but made just three of 11 second half field goals after going five of seven in the first. No other Minnesota player finished in double-figures.
The Gophers have now lost six straight despite improved ball control over the last few games, forcing Borton's squad to continue searching for a solution in a season of questions. Kiara Buford struggled from the floor again, scoring nine points on 2-of-13 shooting while making just six of 38 shots in her last three home games. In that span, the Gophers have seen leads of 11, 13 and 16 points wasted.
"She's got the ball in her hands a little bit more than she used to," Borton said. "Kiara's doing a lot for us. She's pushing the ball in transition, looking for her shot, she's trying to get some other people shots in transition."
As much as Minnesota would like Buford to add more points, Borton stressed the biggest key to stopping their skid is finding consistency.
"We're a better team than this. We've got to put two halves together," she said.
Programs available for DVD purchase
Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)
What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15
From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15
Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15
Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15