They had to come from behind once again, and it wasn’t pretty, but the Minnesota Golden Gophers used a career high 35 point performance from sophomore guard Destiny Pitts and escaped with a 77-69 over Boston College. The #14 ranked Gophers now move to 9-0 on the season which is the third best start in program history.
The Gophers and Eagles traded baskets early before Minnesota went on a 9-0 run to take an early 18-8 lead in the first quarter. Minnesota could not hold that large lead as BC came storming back with a 9-2 run to end the quarter and cut the Minnesota lead to three at 20-17. Minnesota was hampered a bit in that their best rebounder Taiye Bello picked up two fouls in the first 3:30 of the first quarter and would sit for a major portion of the rest of the first half.
The second quarter was more of the first. After BC tied the game at 20 right away Minnesota went on a 11-2 run to jump out to a nine point lead with two minutes remaining in the half. However, Bello would pick up her third foul on a charge with 45 seconds left in the half, and BC would regain some momentum and cut the Gopher lead to seven points at the break at 36-29.
The third quarter has been the roughest one this season for Minnesota and once again that was the case. BC came out on fire from behind the arc and hit four treys in a row to cap a 16-7 run and take the lead 45-43 with 3:35 left in the quarter. Pitts would not be denied and hit three three-pointers of her own in the quarter to keep the Gophers in check, and Minnesota only trailed by one at the end of the third 54-53.
Lindsay Whalen has been able to make coaching decisions on the fly in the fourth quarter of many of the Gophers games this season, and once again it happened. The Gophers controlled the majority fourth quarter. Boston college took their last lead of the game at 60-56 with 7:38 to play. Then Minnesota cracked down on defense. The Gophers would not allow the Eagles to score another point for 6:57. Meanwhile the Gophers chipped away with short layups by Bello and Jasmine Brunson.
Then, Pitts took over. She would score the last eleven points of the game for the Gophers—all from the free throw line. She was 11-12 from the stripe for the game—all in the fourth quarter. The 12 attempts were a career high, as were the 11 makes. Her 35 points also was a new career high and ties the highest scoring performance by a Gopher since Kenisha Bell scored 35 against Iowa last season. Additionally, her nine made field goals matched a career high and her six made 3-pointers were one off a career best. Pitts has found her stroke the last two games as after a cool 9-of-35 (.257) shooting performance over the first seven games of the season, she has now gone 11-of-17 (.647) from long range in her last two games.
Pitts led the way, but two other Gophers got into doubles figures. Senior Annalese Lamke scored 13 points for the second straight game and led the Gophers with nine rebounds. Jasmine Brunson added 11 points, seven of which came in the fourth quarter, and dished out five assists. It was an unusually quiet day for Kenisha Bell who had her worst shooting game of the year. She finished the game shooting 3-14 from the field and recorded eight total points but also had a team high seven turnovers. She did record three steals to move her into 8th place in school history with 178 in her career. With her foul trouble Bello only played 18 minutes and recorded eight rebounds.
With the win Minnesota remains undefeated and at 9-0 now has the third best start to a season in school history. The common link between the top three seasons? You guessed it, one Lindsay Whalen. Minnesota started 15-0 in their Final Four year of 2003-04, and 12-0 to start the 2002-03 season. That would be Whalen’s senior and junior seasons respectively.
The Gophers now should be able to finish out the non-conference portion of their season undefeated. They host Coppin State at the Barn on Wednesday night before a ten day break for finals. They end the non-conference season at home against Rhode Island on December 22. Both games should be relatively easy wins for Minnesota. The Gophers then begin the Big Ten season on December 28th at home against rival Wisconsin.
The new AP poll will come out Monday and Minnesota could move up to #12 with both #11 Stanford and #12 Texas losing games this week.