Following a win at home over the New Hampshire Wildcats last Friday, the No. 25 Gophers’ women’s basketball team travelled to Cincinnati, Ohio to face the Xavier Musketeers on Wednesday.
Minnesota outscored Xavier through the first three quarters to pad a lead that helped them take the victory 78-53.
Minnesota and Xavier have played each other twice before. The Gophers first played Xavier in a loss at the 2009 Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas. Last year, Minnesota overcame Xavier in a comeback win during a rematch in Minneapolis.
For this year’s matchup, Xavier entered the game 2-0 on their season, after securing home wins over Chicago State and Tennessee Tech by large margins.
“Coming into the game they were averaging 81 points a game, so we knew in transition we had to get back [and] get matched up,” said head coach Lindsay Whalen. “We knew we needed to keep the field goal percentage down, because they were shooting 41 percent as a team coming into the game.”
On Wednesday night, Xavier got off to a slow start on their home court. The Musketeers fell behind Minnesota by a score of 20 to 7 at the end of the first quarter, and they never recovered from the deficit.
“For us it was just a matter of coming out and dictating the defense and making sure that we were the ones that were active from the beginning. I was glad that our team was able to do that right from the start.” Whalen said.
Senior Kenisha Bell led the Gophers with 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals; while Destiny Pitts added another 14 points.
“I think it was a good road win,” Pitts said after the game. “We all came out very strong, especially on the defensive end to start the game. And that just helped us build momentum on the offensive end, and get easy baskets in transition.”
In the second quarter, the Gophers continued to hold off the Musketeers, and Xavier went into the half having scored 20 points in as many minutes. The fourth quarter was the only quarter that Xavier outscored Minnesota, and in the end the Gophers grabbed the win by a final score of 78 to 53.
Before the game, Destiny Pitts had been one of 20 athletes in the country named to a watch list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award. The award is given annually to the best shooting guard in all of women’s college basketball. After Wednesday’s game Pitts talked about this prestigious recognition.
“It meant a lot to me because it was like a reflection of my teammate’s hard work, and how much time we invest in each other, how much time we spend in the gym with one another,” Pitts said. “It was like an award for me and my teammates, like any other award I might receive, just because I know how much time they put on the court and off the court with me.”
After this win over Xavier, Minnesota returns home for six-straight home games; the team will not play another road game until Dec. 9. On Saturday, the team will take on San Diego at Williams Arena at 7:30 p.m.
“It was good to get our rhythm with this road game, and now in order to have a special season we need to make sure we’re protecting our home court,” Whalen said. “Now it’s getting that rhythm, finding our routine at home, and just making sure we’re locking in and making Williams Arena a really tough place for our opponents to come and play.”