Because of injuries and a weeklong COVID-19 pause, Minnesota started its women’s basketball game at Illinois on Friday with eight available players. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, they were down to six.
Still, the Gophers had their chances in a 72-64 loss to last-place Illinois in their Big Ten regular-season finale at State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.
The Gophers had fewer turnovers (13-16), more 3-pointers (8-4) and were even on the boards (34-34). But the Illini shot 47 percent from the field and outscored Minnesota in the paint, 44-22.
“Illinois did a good job of executing what they wanted,” Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen said. “I thought we had some good looks that just didn’t go.”
Jeanae Terry had 11 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Eva Rubin scored a game-high 16 points as Illinois (4-17, 2-16 Big Ten) snapped a six-game losing streak. The Gophers (8-12, 7-11) head into Wednesday’s first-round Big Ten tournament game with a lot of personnel questions.
Point guard Jasmine Powell has missed the past two games because of a left ankle injury, and post Kayla Mershon and guard Caroline Strande were unavailable, as well. Kadi Sissoko left the game after pulling down an offensive rebound and falling backward on her head with 4 minutes, 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
At the time, the sophomore forward had nine points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Sissoko was taken to the locker room and didn’t return.
“It was tough. I thought she was the best player on the floor tonight,” Whalen said. “Unfortunately she goes down. We hope she’s OK. She’ll be evaluated. But it was tough to lose her in the game.”
Sophomore post Klarke Sconiers fouled out of the game with 7:58 left in the fourth quarter, leaving the Gophers especially thin up front without Sissoko and Mershon. Freshman Grace Cumming provided some help with a career-high 10 points and six rebounds, but Illinois was at its best in the blocks. Illini post Rubin scored all of her points from the blocks on 8-for-13 shooting.