The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s basketball team won their fourth consecutive Big Ten game on Sunday afternoon pulling away in overtime to get a 73-64 victory. However, the Gophers blew another double digit lead late in the game and needed some help to get the game to overtime. They came together in the OT period and got the job done—which is all that really counts. Minnesota now moves to 17-7 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten on the year.
Minnesota got out to a fast start in the first quarter thanks to some great shooting by Destiny Pitts and Kenisha Bell. Pitts went 3-3 from behind the arc for nine first quarter points and Bell added seven of her own including a three. Minnesota was 4-4 as a team from behind the arc. The Gophers lead got as large as 11 points at 19-8 before the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to get back in the game. A final late Pitts three pushed the lead back to seven points at 22-15 after the first quarter.
Minnesota once again started hot in the second beginning the quarter on a 7-0 run. The Gophers and Wildcats would trade baskets the rest of the quarter but neither team was quite as prolific on offense in the second . Minnesota would take a 13 point lead to the half at 37-24.
As we have seen this season, no lead is safe with this Gopher team unfortunately, and the Wildcats began to chip away at Minnesota’s cushion in the third quarter. Northwestern at one point cut the Gopher lead to seven points, but Minnesota then went on a bit of a mini run to push the lead back to double digits. But it would not last for long as Northwestern ended the third on a 5-2 run to cut the Gopher lead back to eight points at 50-42 after three quarters.
By now if you have followed this team, you know that Minnesota for some mind-boggling reason has really struggled in the fourth quarter in the Big Ten portion of the schedule. Unfortunately Sunday was no exception to the rule. The Gophers scored just eight points in the fourth quarter and watched their lead evaporate. Northwestern went on a 16-4 run to take a eight point Gopher lead to a four point Wildcat lead in the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. The Gophers shot just 33% in the fourth and were 0-4 from behind the arc. Three turnovers each from Bell and Pitts in the fourth quarter did not help either.
But, the Gophers dug deep and found a way to keep the game going. After the Wildcats stretched the lead to four, the Gophers went down the court and Pitts hit a jumper to cut the defect back to two points with 53 seconds remaining. After forcing a missed shot on the Wildcats next possession, Minnesota went down the court and kicked the ball to Pitts for a three for the lead. She missed, but Bell got the offensive rebound and made the put back layup to tie the game at 58 with seven seconds left in regulation. The Wildcats still had one more chance as in their last possession they immediately got the ball into Abi Scheid who got a shot attempt off while being fouled by Taiye Bello. But, Scheid would miss both free throws with four second left. Minnesota did not get a shot off on a last ditch attempt and the game headed to overtime.
In overtime Minnesota looked more like the first quarter than the fourth. They opened OT on a 9-0 run and used a 7-8 performance from the free throw line by Pitts to ice the game and come away with the 73-64 win.
Bell led all scorers with 24 points, and she added 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double on the season. For her performance last week on Monday she was named to the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Honor Roll for the fourth time this season and the eighth time in her Gopher career. Pitts added 21 points and would play all 45 minutes of the game along with Jasmine Brunson—new career highs for both players. Gopher coach Lindsay Whalen rode her starters once again playing only seven players, one of whom Palma Kaposi only played 1:28 of game time.
Minnesota takes its four game winning streak onto the road Thursday night at Purdue where it will look to avenge a 64-53 home loss to the Boilermakers in January. The game is schedule to tip off at 5PM and will air on BTN.