The Minnesota Golden Gophers overcame a two point halftime deficit in their first road test on the season and beat up on a shorthanded Kentucky team in the second half to cruise to a 76-57 win over the Wildcats in Lexington, Kentucky. Minnesota moves to 8-1 on the season with their lone blemish coming to a ranked UCONN team. The Gophers will begin Big Ten play on Sunday when Purdue comes to the Barn.
The Gophers didn’t play particularly poorly in the first half against the Wildcats, but Kentucky was better. The Gophers got off to a slow start missing their first six shots of the game and turned the ball over five times in the opening quarter. The Gophers long rage shooting came alive late in the period to keep them close as freshman Grace Grocholoski nailed back to back threes and Mara Braun added one with less than a minute left in the quarter to give the Gophers a lead. Kentucky added a pair of late free throws and took a 17-16 lead after the first ten minutes.
The second quarter started off much of the same way before Braun took over. She would score nine of the Gophers 20 points in the quarter and would have 17 total at half. Minnesota extended their lead to the then largest point at 27-20 after back to back threes from Grocholoski and Mallory Heyer but a Kentucky run cut the lead back to just one a minute later. The teams traded baskets back and forth the rest of the 2nd quarter with Kentucky’s Emma King hitting the final one with 15 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 38-26 lead at the break. Kentucky seemed to get really good looks and took advantage shooting 50% from the field in the opening half. Minnesota stayed in the game with their success from behind the arc going 7-12 in the opening half.
Whether it was a combination of halftime adjustments or a Kentucky team that only had seven players available running out of gas, Minnesota put the pedal to the metal to start the third quarter and never looked back.
Minnesota shot over 57% in the quarter and outrebounded Kentucky 11-5 in the quarter. They started out on an 11-0 run to open play in the third and needed just three points from Braun late. Heyer stepped up and hit a pair of threes and Sophie Hart got into the action with a pair of buckets. Kentucky had no answer for Minnesota spacing and shooting and the Gophers went into the final quarter with a 56-49 lead.
The fourth quarter was more domination from Minnesota. The Gophers went on a 16-1 run top open the quarter before the mid-quarter TV timeout and were able to play their subs for the majority of the final few minutes of the game. Braun came in for one final spurt after the TV timeout and immediately added one last jumper to finish with 25 points on the night. The Gophers played out the last few moments and headed home with a 76-57 win over a Power 5 Team.
The Gophers spaced their scoring out. Braun led the team with 25, shooting 5-7 from three, but Grocholski added 15 also on 5-7 shooting from behind the arc. Heyer added 13 and Hart was just two points away from a double-double scoring right and leading the Gophers with 10 rebounds. Ajae Petty finished with 20 points for Kentucky.
Minnesota returns home Sunday afternoon on a five game winning streak to open Big Ten play against Purdue at the Barn. The Boilermakers are 6-3 on the season and on a four game winning streak of their own. Purdue’s three losses have all been to Power 5 Teams with a loss to #4 UCLA to open the season and then back to back losses to a pair SEC teams in Florida and Georgia at a tournament in the Bahamas before Thanksgiving. Their most recent game was a win over SE Missouri State on Wednesday night winning 83-57. The Boilermakers are led by 5th year guard Abbey Ellis who is averaging 14.8 points per game. The Boilermakers also have a spread out scoring group with three others in double figures.
Minnesota and Purdue split their pair of games last season with each team winning on their home court. Tip off is set for 1:00 PM and the game will stream on BTN+.