This was going to be difficult anyway.
Maryland is the class of Big Ten Conference women's basketball. First place, ranked ninth in the country, a team that matches intensity with athletic ability to produce the highest-scoring team in the conference. But having to play the Terrapins, on the road, without your starting backcourt?
Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen learned Saturday morning starting guard Sara Scalia would miss the game with an illness not COVID-19-related. Before the first half ended starting point guard Jasmine Powell went down with what appeared to be a left ankle sprain; she'll be re-evaluated this week.
The result: a 94-62 loss to Maryland (16-2 overall, 12-1 Big Ten), which has won five straight.
"We've had some tough things happen that are out of our control,'' Whalen said. "We just have to keep going. Everyone in the country is dealing with different injuries.''
Even healthy, slowing the highest-scoring team in Division I (92.4 entering the game) was going to be hard.
Saturday the Gophers (7-11, 6-10) scored the first five points of the game. Maryland scored 31 of the next 37. The Terrapins were up 13 after a quarter, by 20 when Powell appeared the reinjure the ankle that has bothered her for a number of games with 3:56 left in the first half. The Maryland lead was 24 at halftime, 30 entering the fourth.
"They have some really talented players,'' Whalen said, "and they play extremely hard. Add those two together and they're a very tough team.''
Maryland has been doing this a lot lately. Saturday marked its fifth straight win, a streak in which the Terrapins have won by an average of 36.5 points.
Maryland got 24 points from Ashley Owusu, 20 from Diamond Miller and 17 from Katie Benzan, the only member of the Maryland starting five under 6 feet tall.
Kadi Sissoko had 16 for the Gophers, the only player in double figures. She also had seven rebounds and three assists. With the size and athletic ability to match the Terrapins, she was a bright spot for the Gophers, attacking the basket.
"We moved her around,'' Whalen said. "She started at the four, played some three. She had some tough makes inside. I thought she played a really good game. She had good energy for us.''
Caroline Strande had eight points and Katie Borowicz had six, with both getting extra playing time without Scalia and Powell.
But Maryland's size and speed was too much.
"Obviously it was hard to play without Jas and Scalia,'' Sissoko said. "I had to step up my game and be there for my other teammates…. They have players who can pretty much do everything on the court. Shoot, drive hard, post up.''
The Terrapins, who pressed effectively early, ended up with a 23-2 edge in points off turnovers and a 27-9 edge on fast-break points.
Whalen didn't say whether Scalia or Powell would likely be available for Wednesday's home game with Nebraska.
"You learn from every situation,'' Whalen said. "Some people did get more experience today. We'll get home, watch the tape, regroup.''
The Star Tribune reporter did not attend this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.