In a season that has found several ways to be disappointing for the Minnesota women's basketball team, moral victories are taken in stride with game wins.
The Gophers were crushed at Iowa on Thursday night 75-54, making them losers of eight of their last nine games.
Yet there are still several positives the Gophers can take away from the defeat. None more so than the play of sophomore Kiara Buford who returned to her early-season form by scoring a game-high 23 points, including a career-high seven 3-pointers.
Minnesota also can come away feeling good about its solid defensive effort in the second-half. Iowa put up 50 points in the first half on 63.3 percent shooting and was on pace to be the first team to score 100 points against Minnesota in over nine years.
However, the Gophers clamped down defensively in the second half and found enough of a scoring touch to win the second half scoring 26-25. One solid half may not mean much on the surface, but the Gophers could have shied away as the game went on, but instead continued to fight until the final buzzer. The never-say-die effort will only continue to help Minnesota into the future.
"They [Iowa] are a very talented team that can shoot the 3 and get to the rim," Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. "I thought we came out in the first half and took it right on the chin. But in the second half we came out and played better defense in did better on the boards. We just have to be able to make layups."
The Gophers started the game with their usual cold shooting, but the Hawkeyes came out red hot from the field as they quickly built a 26-10 lead.
Iowa appeared to be ready to run away with the game very early on, but the hot shooting of Buford allowed Minnesota to keep the game from getting out of hand as she hit three 3-pointers in part of a 14-7 Minnesota run midway through the first half.
Buford finished the half with 14 of Minnesota's 28 points, but it appeared insignificant as Iowa continued to make shots in bunches near the end of first half to go into the break with a 50-28 lead.
A quick 3-pointer to start the second-half by Iowa's Jaime Printy gave the Hawkeyes a 25-point lead. Then, Minnesota suddenly sprung to life as two 3-pointers by Katie Ohm, a 3-pointer by Buford, and two layups by Ashley Ellis-Milan sparked a 14-4 run by the Gophers.
Minnesota continued to fight as a Brianna Mastey layup dropped Iowa's lead to 13 midway through the second half. But the comeback effort quickly fell short as Iowa took care of business down the stretch, pulling away on a 10-0 run to cruise to victory.
"We just need to keep working hard; I thought we got ourselves back into the game,” Borton said. “We just have to be able to finish. When our post players can score we're a pretty good team.”
Buford was the only Gopher to finish the game in double digit scoring, but senior Brittany McCoy finished with 10 assists to go along with five points and four rebounds and Ellis-Milan chipped in eight points and four rebounds.
The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, had four players in double figures. Printy finished with 15 points while, Minnesota natives sophomore Kamille Wahlin and junior Kachine Alexander finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Freshman Morgan Johnson finished with 12 points for Iowa.
Minnesota continues its two-game road trip as the team travels to Indiana on Sunday at 11 a.m.
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