UNIVERSITY PARK - For 37 minutes, Penn State looked crisp, efficient and collected.
The Lady Lions then looked like the unraveling, free-falling group they really are during the final three minutes of a 63-61 loss to Minnesota on Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Four-year contributor Mashea Williams and three-year starter Tyra Grant carelessly turned the ball over - turnovers that led to three of the Golden Gophers' final four points - and Grant missed three shots in the final 30 seconds as Penn State lost its sixth game in its past seven outings.
At 3-8 in the Big Ten, hopes of finishing high enough to earn a bye to the second round of the conference tournament are severely optimistic for a Penn State team five games back with seven remaining.
''We just didn't really make good decisions turning the ball over,'' said Washington, who, for the first time in her two years, did not make players available afterward. ''Just our execution probably the last three minutes of the game was not where it needed to be. We had more turnovers, I think, than shot attempts.''
For the record, Penn State finished with four shot attempts and two turnovers in the final three minutes.
But the team still played largely as if the game was foreign despite a starting five dotted with experience.
Williams inexcusably turned the ball over when Penn State had a chance to regain the lead, and Grant squandered Penn State's next possession when her dribble was poked away by Minnesota's Emily Fox.
Fox, who won a world title for the fastest cup stacking (yes, really), used her quick hands to tap the ball away from Grant. She missed a lay-up on the other end, but Ashley Ellis-Milan's putback put the Gophers up, 62-59.
''Last year, we won here for the first time ever,'' said Fox, who scored 22 points. ''It was pretty special. We came into this game wanting to do it two times in a row. This is a tough place to play.''
The Bryce Jordan Center once was, but this era of Lady Lions basketball is different. Minnesota became the fourth different team to win at the BJC this season, and with two of the top six teams in the conference still scheduled to visit Penn State's home court, additional losses seem likely.
Particularly if the Lady Lions are as dysfunctional as they were in the final three minutes.
Grant first missed a leaner 10 feet from the basket with 32 seconds remaining that could have given Penn State a 63-62 lead.
Then, with 15 seconds left, she awkwardly missed a shot trying to draw a foul. Penn State came away with the rebound, but Grant rushed a shot from the free-throw line at the buzzer that could have tied the game at 63.
Unlike Grant's overtime buzzer beater against Wisconsin, there were no heroics Thursday.
Instead, it was more of the same.
''I'm just very confident sooner or later we're gonna win these close games,'' Washington said.
MINNESOTA (16-6): Fox 10-14 1-2 22, McCoy 1-5 1-2 4, Ellis-Milan 3-6 6-8 12, Ohm 1-3 2-2 5, Voigt 1-3 0-0 3, Sylva 2-5 1-2 6, Harper 1-3 -0 2, Buford 2-4 3-4 9. Totals: 21-45 14-20 63.
PENN STATE (8-13): Grant 9-20 0-0 21, O'Rourke 3-9 2-2 8, Williams 4-11 2-2 10, Lewis 2-3 1-6 5, Wolff 4-8 3-4 11, Womack 0-4 0-0 0, Monroe 3-4 0-2 6. Totals: 25-59 3-11 61.
Halftime: Penn State, 34-28. 3-point field goals: Minnesota 7-17 (Fox 1-2, McCoy 1-2, Ohm 1-4, Voigt 1-2, Sylva 1-3, Buford 2-4), Penn State 3-11 (Grant 3-8, O'Rourke 0-3). Rebounds: Minnesota 33 (Voigt 7), Penn State 31 (Lewis 7). Assists: Minnesota 10 (McCoy 5), Penn State 12 (O'Rourke 5). Total fouls: Minnesota 17, Penn State 15. A: 3,851.