Women’s basketball: Gophers let upset bid slip away late

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Women’s basketball: Gophers let upset bid slip away late
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On the brink of an upset victory and a breakthrough against a top-division Big Ten team, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team reversed course Thursday night in Bloomington, Ind.

Leading fifth-ranked Indiana 70-66 after Sara Scalia’s long 3-pointer, the Gophers watched Indiana score the next 14 points in an 80-70 victory at Assembly Hall.

“We definitely should have won,” Scalia said. “We had them for most of the game. We did some good things, but they came out of it eventually to pull through at the end.”

Scalia led the Gophers (10-13 overall, 3-8 Big Ten) with 26 points, hitting 7 of 12 from beyond the arc, and Laura Bagwell Katalinich added 10 points for a bench that outscored the Hoosiers’ 20-5.

But Aleksa Gulbe scored a career-high 28 points for the Hoosiers (15-3, 7-1), including a 3-pointer to answer Scalia and pull Indiana to within 70-69 with 4:26 remaining. Her layup put the Hoosiers up 76-70 with 1:33 left.

In the final four minutes, the Hoosiers were 5 for 5 from the field, 2 for 2 from the free-throw line and made two steals.

“We were right there, up with five minutes to go up against the fifth-ranked team in the country,” Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen said. “But give them credit, they made some really big shots down the stretch.

“I’m proud of our team. Obviously, it sucks to lose, but I’m really proud of the way we battled. (Indiana) executed down the stretch. They’re the fifth-ranked team for a reason. Give them credit.”

Playing its second game without point guard Jasmine Powell, who quit the team last Friday, the Gophers started hot, taking a 21-17 lead after one quarter – reversing course on a distressing trend of falling behind early in losses.

Minnesota led 37-36 at intermission and by as many as six. A 3-pointer by Alexia Smith gave the Gophers a 67-62 lead with 6:38 left in the game, and Scalia’s final 3-pointer made it 70-66 with 4:42 left. Then the bottom fell out.

Playing in an arena that was all but empty because of a heavy snowstorm, the Hoosiers scored the next 14 points. The Gophers missed their last six shot attempts and turned the ball over twice in the last 4 minutes.

“Down the stretch, they made plays, hit shots,” Scalia said. “We had to get stops at the end, and we didn’t really do that.”

Indiana improved to 3-1 without leading scorer Mackenzie Holmes, a 6-foot-3 post who hasn’t played since injuring a knee on Jan. 5.

Minnesota is host to Michigan State on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.

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