Women’s basketball: Gophers smarting, confident after close loss to undefeated Ohio State

After tangling with first-place Ohio State on Thursday at Williams Arena, the Gophers women’s basketball team will meet last-place Wisconsin on Sunday in Madison.

Minnesota played the undefeated, third-ranked Buckeyes tough, taking a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, but were outscored 28-10 the rest of the way.

“I thought we played well,” coach Lindsay Whalen said after she and the team watched film of the loss on Friday. “Obviously, I’m disappointed to lose, but for the most part we were in control. We have to learn to hang in and finish those games.”

After coming so close to a signature win, there seems little chance the Gophers (8-6 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) will overlook a Badgers (4-11, 0-4) team that has lost nine of its past 10 games.

“The big thing is there were more positives than negatives,” said freshman guard Mara Braun, the Gophers’ leading scorer (17.1 ppg). “We can’t dwell on the outcome. We had the opportunity to compete against one of the best in the nation, the best team in the Big Ten, and we did.

“We’re learning. We’ll correct things and move forward with a big confidence boost.”

Like Minnesota, the Badgers are getting production from a few freshmen. Maty Wilke, a redshirt guard from Beaver Dam, Wis., is averaging 13.2 points and 3.9 assists; Serah Williams, a 6-foot-4 forward from Brooklyn, is averaging 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds.

But Wisconsin ranks 12th in Big Ten scoring, averaging 68.3 points a game, nearly 10 points fewer than Minnesota. And while the Gophers are the Big Ten’s best rebounding team, averaging 44.5 a game, the Badgers are the conference’s worst at 33 a game.

“We expect them to play the shot clock, try to control the pace,” Braun said. ““We’ll try to speed them up and execute on offense.”

Ronnie Porter, a 5-foot-4 guard from Como Park, is averaging 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 12 games for the Badgers, playing an average of 9.0 minutes a game.

“They’re probably going to want to limit some possessions,” Whalen said, “but they execute their offense well. Defensively they’re big; they make it tough. … We need to make sure we execute and continue to handle ball pressure.”

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