Monday, June 17, 2024

Spartans defeated by Minnesota

Freshman forward Lykendra Johnson reacts after a foul was called on Minnesota sending junior center Lauren Aitch to the line. The Spartans suffered a 66-51 defeat to the Golden Gophers on Thursday at Breslin Center.

The MSU women’s basketball team lost its second consecutive game Thursday night for the first time since Dec. 14, falling 66-51 to Minnesota.

The game started off at a blistering pace, as Minnesota guard Emily Fox took the opening tip for an easy breakaway layup. MSU junior forward Aisha Jefferson answered with a layup off a backcut. Fox answered that shot with a 3-pointer, putting Minnesota up 5-2 with only 52 seconds elapsed from the game.

The three by Fox was just a precursor to what Minnesota would bring for the rest of the first half. In the first half alone, Minnesota hit six threes, shooting 40 percent from behind the arc.

“We had great ball reversal,” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said.

Minnesota scored 43 percent from the field in the first half, taking a seven-point lead into the break, 34-27.

“We had played them with some zone in the past,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “They just got beat at Northwestern who played them with nothing but zone. Obviously some of those guards said that enough is enough. Our zone is normally good but we were just flat.”

After halftime the game didn’t get much easier for the Spartans. MSU slowly fought back a few times, but were too far behind to contend without a consistent outside threat. For the game, MSU was 1-for-18 from behind the arc, a miserable 5.6 percent shooting percentage.

Leading the conference in nearly every rebounding statistic, MSU was outrebounded in the game, 43-35.

“I think they outworked us,” Merchant said. “They wanted it more. They got on the boards right from the tip. I thought our kids were slow at reacting.

“We have some kids on this team, especially our post players, that are very capable of being double-digit rebounders night in and night out. Some of their performances in the rebounding area were inexcusable.”

Minnesota spread the lead even further and won the game 66-51.

The Spartans, now 19-9 overall and 12-5 in the Big Ten, slip out of contention for the regular season championship and will be fighting for anything from a No. 2 seed to a No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament when they play Purdue on Sunday. They will also be fighting for a solid seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

“Mentally, we need to be stronger this time of year,” Jefferson said. “NCAAs are a lot different.

“It’s a lot tougher and we just want to prepare for the long run, but right now we need to focus on who we got up next.”

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