Dominant from start to finish.
There is no other way to describe the performance of the Gophers tonight at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, OH. Minnesota started the game with lock down defense and built an early lead thanks to a 16-2 run. After that, Xavier never came close to challenging. “[I was] pleased with our effort from the start. Defensively, holding them to 34% for the game when they came in shooting 46% as a team” said Coach Lindsay Whalen following the game.
The Gophers were balanced on offense, with 4 players (led by Kenisha Bell’s 18 points) in double figures for scoring. Forward Taiye Bello praised the coaching staff for how their approach has led to this balanced output. “Everyone has a chance to score on any given night, everyone’s included in the offense. Our offense is spread out, it’s not just focused on two people or one person. I think that’s a big improvement for us.”
In addition to being one of the players in double figures offensively (11 points), Bello tied a career high with 16 rebounds (7 offensive) while posting her second double-double of the season. When asked what’s led to her early success on the boards, Taiye was modest. “Part of it is just being at the right place at the right time. And some of it is just grit, being aggressive.”
That aggressiveness is also part of what Coach Whalen sees as a key to success for this team. “So far I think we’ve been really willing to work hard and play together as a team. We come into practice every day ready to work and I think that’s been really good for us.”
Gophers a bit careless at times
Even in a dominant win, the Gophers still have work to do. “I thought we turned it over a little too much. 18 turnovers is too high. I’d like to see us be able to take care of the ball a little better” said Coach Whalen. “I thought we got a little sloppy there in the 3rd. Hopefully a couple good days of practice will be able to improve that.”
Production came from more than just the starters
Coach Whalen also highlighted the play of senior forward Irene Garrido Perez. “I thought Irene was really good tonight. She’s worked hard in practice all week, and then she hits 2 of 5 threes, she gets a nice floater in the lane, she’s really worked hard on her game...8 points is her career high, so I was happy that she was able to achieve that tonight.”
Coach Whalen on her first official recruiting class at Minnesota
“I feel like we filled a lot of needs. We’re graduating a lot so I feel like getting a little bit of both perimeter and the inside help that we need...based on what we’re losing this year in graduation. So I think it’s going to be a really good class for us, and they’re all going to come in here and hopefully have great careers.”