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Minnesota Women’s Basketball: Gophers tip-off Big Ten season at Penn State

The Gophers will look to build on another great non-conference season

Freshman Sarah Scalia has been great for Minnesota this season
gophersports.com

The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s basketball team will look to build on another great non-conference performance when they begin Big Ten conference play Saturday afternoon at Penn State. Minnesota will look to build on their current ten game winning streak. The streak is the sixth longest in program history and is only two wins off of the 12 straight the Gophers won a season ago in Lindsay Whalen’s first year as Minnesota’s Head Coach.

Minnesota began the season with a loss to a Missouri State team that is currently the #21 ranked team in the AP Poll. The Gophers picked up big wins over then ranked #17 Arizona State and at Notre Dame in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge during their winning streak.

Minnesota will now try to avoid the fate they found themselves in a year ago after a perfect non-conference schedule and a Big Ten opening win against Wisconsin turned into a seven game losing streak as the Big Ten schedule progressed. Minnesota struggled a year ago holding fourth quarter leads, but have found a way to avoid that fate this season thus far.

Minnesota has won four straight games against the Nittany Lions, and seven of the last eight. Last season the Gophers came away with a 97-67 win at the Barn in the teams only matchup. Minnesota last won at Penn State in 2018 by a 91-71 score.

The Nittany Lions will have a different feel as they have a new head coach. Roseville, MN native Carolyn Kieger takes over the Nittany Lions this season after five years coaching her Alma matter Marquette. Penn State comes into the game with a 6-5 record on the season, the worst non-conference record in the Big Ten. Kamaria McDaniel is averaging 18.0 points per game which ranks second in the Big Ten thus far. She is one of three Nittany Lions players averaging in double figures. Minnesota will also need to guard• Siyeh Frazier who averages 11.7 points per game and Makenna Marisa who is averaging 10.5 points per game. Frazier will be a match for Minnesota Taiye Bello on the boards as she is the team’s leading rebound at 6.8 boards per contest.

Speaking of Bello, she enters the Big Ten opener having recorded a double-double in six of Minnesota’s 11 game thus far. In her career she has 21 double doubles, and Minnesota is 19-2 in games where she achieves that mark. Her double-double averages this season of 13.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game place her in high company. She is one of just 22 players nationally and one of just two in the Big Ten to average those marks.

The Gophers have been getting great production once again from junior guard Destiny Pitts. She leads the team with a 15.9 points per game average and also leads the team with 4 assists per game. Her 45.3 % shooting percentage from beyond the three point arc also leads the team and is key to her success.

Three point shooting has been a major plus for the entire team this far. Gadiva Hubbard’s return from a season ending injury a year ago has made a huge difference to the spread off the offensive responsibilities and she has flourished shooting 42.6% from three this season. Minnesota also has been bolstered by two freshmen who have stepped in immediately and made an impact. Stillwater native Sarah Scalia has started every game during the Gophers ten-game winning streak and is averaging 10.3 points per game while shooting 40.5% from three. Jasmine Powell has been the first guard off of the bench and has created a spark averaging 9.9 ;points per game and 4 assists per game.

After the Penn State game the Gophers will get tested quickly. Minnesota opens home conference play with a New Year’s Eve matinee against Ohio State who’s 7-4 non-conference record is deceiving. Two of those losses came to UConn and #1 Stanford. They will be a handful for the Gophers. Next is a road battle at Nebraska who is also 10-1 in non-conference play. Both the Penn State and Ohio State game swill stream on BTN+, while the Nebraska game will air on actual BTN. All Gopher women’s basketball games can be heard on the radio on 96.7 FM and on the I Heart Radio App.

Lindsay Whalen has her Gopher team in a good place after the non-conference season once again. Hopefully they can avoid the long losing streak in conference play this season and get themselves in a position to return to the NCAA Tournament.