Following the transfer decision of Jasmine Powell, the Minnesota Women’s basketball were desperately seeking some positive momentum. Fortunately for them, they got to play the Wisconsin Badgers. Minnesota defeated Wisconsin 57-55 at Williams Arena to improve to 10-12 on the season and 3-7 in conference play. Sara Scalia led all scorers with 16 points.
The Gophers looked disjointed early on and struggled to find their shooting rhythm throughout the first quarter, mustering just 11 points. Scalia, deputized to be the starting point guard, was not much of a threat as a catch and shoot option. However, Wisconsin was not much better, scoring just 13 on 5-14 shooting. Multiple sequences during the first quarter confirmed that these are two of the worst current teams in the conference.
Minnesota righted the ship in the second quarter behind better performances from Scalia and Laura Bagwell Katalinich. The latter had a strong overall game, providing not just points (10 in 17 minutes of action) but also energy. Gadiva Hubbard also played well throughout the game, and moved into 13th on the all-time scoring list.
Scalia scored the bulk of her points in the second half, though should have scored more if several open three point shots had dropped. 2-10 from distance is not going to cut it, even during a win.
As is their wont this season, the Gophers nearly gave it all away at the end, allowing Wisconsin to go on several mini-runs to tie the game at 54 with a little over a minute to play. The Badgers then showed why they are the doormat of the conference by promptly following Deja Winters on a three point shot. Winters hit all of her free throws to extend the lead to three. Then on the final possession, Winters swatted away a layup try from Sydney Hilliard out of bounds. Wisconsin’s buzzer beater failed to drop, and Minnesota celebrated a clearly emotional win.
Over the remaining games in the season, let’s hope that Alexia Smith can figure out how to take a step forward to be a competent option at the point. Scalia is a natural shooting guard, and the Gophers need her to be in spots she is comfortable with on the floor.
Wisconsin went zone for much of the game, and the Gophers did not look well prepared to attack the match-up zone looks. Not great!
Minnesota swept the Border Battle this season, as it should be.
The Gophers next play Indiana, who was last ranked 6th in the country at Assembly Hall on February 3rd.