Gophers women’s basketball can’t hang on to the end at Michigan State

·3 min read

If a one-sided loss to Iowa on Thursday was a case of shell shock, Sunday's one-possession loss at Michigan State was pure, old-fashioned heartbreak for the Gophers women's basketball team.

Leading for much of the game, up two entering the fourth quarter, in a game in which both teams played with grit, the Gophers lost 74-71 after another final quarter where too many shots didn't fall.

In a cruel twist, Sara Scalia — who scored 31 points, who at times seemingly single-handedly kept the Gophers in the game, who made seven of 13 threes, some from ultra long range — missed a layup with 13 seconds left that would have tied the score.

Coach Lindsay Whalen said she liked her team's effort, liked how it bounced back from the Thursday loss to be ready Sunday.

"But we know in order to come out with a win, to feel better, we have to do more,'' she said.

Shooting struggles in the fourth quarter were costly. Michigan State (10-8, 4-3 Big Ten) got 25 points from Nia Clouden. She scored 14 of the Spartans' 22 fourth-quarter points, including all eight in an 8-1 run to start the period that put Michigan State up 60-55.

Scalia and Deja Winters (17 points) shot 14-for-30 overall, 10-for-20 on threes and 10-for-10 from the line. They scored 48 of the team's 71 points. The rest of the roster went 9-for-34.

Jasmine Powell had eight points, nine assists and six boards, but shot 2-for-15. Kadi Sissoko had nine points and five rebounds.

BOXSCORE: Michigan State 74, Gophers 71

The Gophers (9-11, 2-6) made just five of 18 shots in the final 10 minutes.

Still, there were chances. Powell and Winters hit threes as the Gophers bounced back to take a 63-62 lead with 5:28 left. The teams went back and forth until, with 1:07 left, Powell stole the ball and fed Scalia for two on the break to tie the score at 67-67.

Clouden made two free throws with 31 seconds left for a two-point Spartans lead. At the other end, Powell was fouled and made one of two free throws with 26 seconds left. Seven seconds later, Matilda Ekh (23 points) made a free throw that put MSU up 70-68.

Out of a timeout, the Gophers got the ball to Scalia, who drove the lane. She shot — there might have been contact — but it didn't fall. Ekh made two free throws with 10 seconds left to seal the victory.

"It was a great play," Scalia said. "Didn't work out, I guess. I'll probably be thinking about it for a while. But you have to move on to the next game and be better."

The Gophers, who made 12 of 31 threes, were 3-for-9 from long range in the final quarter. But Minnesota attempted seven layups in the fourth quarter, making only one.

"I thought we had looks down the stretch," Whalen said. "A couple shots were quick or forced. But I liked our shots. We got guys with looks at the rim."

The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.