The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s basketball team had no trouble winning their sixth consecutive Big Ten game on Sunday jumping out early on Penn State and not taking the pedal off the gas in a 97-67 victory. The 97 points were the most on the season for the Gophers and their 59 points at halftime were the sixth highest total in a half in program history.
The Gophers got off to a slow start and initially trailed Penn State 9-2 early in the first quarter. Minnesota had a scare when Kenisha Bell had to be helped off the court after getting plowed over, but she would return just a few minutes later. Minnesota would snap out of their early funk and then go on a 16-0 run to go from a seven point deficit to a nine point lead. It would be the Destiny Pitts show in the first quarter as she would lead all scorers with 13 points on 5-7 shooting including 3-4 from behind the arc. Minnesota took a a 28-17 lead into the second quarter.
The second was more of the same for Minnesota. They started the quarter on a 9-0 run and would run away from the Nittany Lions with a 31 point quarter—the second highest total on the season and their highest scoring quarter in Big Ten play. They shot a whopping 80% from the field in the second quarter and added another 6 points from the free throw line to take a 59-34 lead into the half.
The third quarter would be the “blip’ in the Gopher game, yet they still would score four more points than the Nittany Lions in the third. Penn State would cut the Gopher lead to 25 points at one point in the quarter, but they would get no closer the rest of the game.
The Gophers played a majority of the fourth quarter with their bench emptied—though due to several injuries the Gophers only had eight players dressed. Bell and Taiye Bello did not play in the fourth quarter and Pitts played just three minutes. Minnesota got up to a 36 point lead at one point, and had a serious chance to break 100 points but missed several layups down the stretch and would settle for a 30 point victory, 97-67.
Pitts led all scorers with 22 points and a career high six assists. It was her third consecutive 20 point game for Minnesota and in her last eight games she is now averaging 19.8 points per game. Minnesota’s five starters all scored at least 14 points in the game with Irene Garrido Perez and Jasmine Brunson both recording new career highs in points with 16 and 17 respectively. Bello added 13 rebounds to go with her 14 points to record her tenth double-double on the season.
The Gophers sixth consecutive Big Ten win tied the third longest conference winning streak in program history. Just like earlier in the year when they started with a twelve game winning streak the only longer streaks came during the playing career of Lindsay Whalen.
Minnesota now is back above .500 at 8-7 in Big Ten play and are 19-7 overall. The Gophers are now in a four way tie for fifth place in the conference with Purdue, Northwestern and Ohio State.
Making it seven Big Ten wins in a row will be a very tall order as the Gophers final three Big Ten opponents are all ranked. Thursday night the Gophers head to #8 Maryland for their only meeting of the season. A week later the Gophers head to #22 Rutgers for a rematch of Minnesota’s upset victory in January. Then on March 3 the Gophers end the regular season at home against #23 Michigan State.
Minnesota probably needs to win at least two of their last three regular season games to have a shot at an NCAA at-large bid. The Gophers currently sit at 103 in the RPI and will need to make up some serious ground to not need to win the Big Ten Tournament to head back to the Big Dance in March.