Minnesota defeated #12 Nebraska 72-69 at Williams Arena to win their first Big Ten game. The women improve to 12-1 (1-0) on the season. Minnesota had its first lead of the game with 33 seconds remaining, and were down six points with less than 2:46 to play. Amanda Zahui B. led the Gophers with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
This is the first game I've seen the Gophers play, and the first women's game I've seen live in at least four years. Outside of a game recap, I want to highlight the importance of the crowd in spurring the Gophers. During the peak of the program, the Barn was absolutely rocking. Tonight in the first half, the biggest cheer was for a basketball toss. That wasn't the fault of the crowd. The Gophers were abysmal from the field in the first half. Minnesota had 2 points after seven minutes of game action on their way to being down 13 at the half. In the second half, the Gophers destroyed Nebraska, outscoring the Huskers by 16 in the second half. The crowd followed the team, getting very loud for the last five minutes, and the team appeared to feed off the crowd's energy late in the game.
Minnesota has bought in completely to the tempo that Coach Stollings wants to play at. Nebraska was down to seven players due to injuries, and it appeared that the Cornhuskers were worn down by the game tempo late in the second half. Early in the game, the Gophers were getting good looks, but were unable to execute. For the game, Minnesota was 26-76 (6-25 from 3), which works out to an eFG% of 38%. Quite a few of those looks were wide open, but what I want to focus on is the 76 shots. Minnesota had 70 possessions, and ended up with a little more than a point per possession. With better shooting, this game is a blow out.
In the second half, the Gophers were a different ball club. They were able to solve Nebraska's defense to get the ball inside to Zahui who is nigh unguardable when she catches the ball in the low post. Zahui B. finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals, and an assist. The sophomore is a great prospect who has a ridiculously high ceiling. She also corralled critical rebounds, made foul shots down the stretch, and emphatically blocked Nebraska's last shot of the game.
Carlie Wagner is going to be a star. For the game, she finished with 10 points on a bad shooting night, but added 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. Everything about her game passes the eye test. She has a great shot with a quick release, played excellent defense at the top of the zone, and was able to get into the lane when necessary. It is incredibly unfortunate that Rachel Banham's injury means that we will not be able to see this team at its absolute potential, but Wagner is going to be a killer by the end of the season.
Shayne Mullaney was the leading scorer for the Gophers in the first half. She finished with 18 points and 6 assists. Several of those baskets came after a Nebraska basket where Mullaney beat the defense down the floor to get an easy layup.
Shae Kelley had an awful shooting performance (1-11 from the field), but made up for it on the defensive end. She had 10 rebounds (7 DRB), and had 3 steals.