Gophers topple Air Force to stay undefeated

MNDaily Week 14 Image
Sophomore Destiny Pitts runs toward the hoop on Sunday, Dec. 2 at Williams Arena. The Gophers beat the Air Force Falcons 67-50.

On Sunday, the Gopher women’s basketball team played their fifth straight home game in a match against Air Force. The Falcons came into the game against No. 20 Minnesota holding a 4-3 record.

Meanwhile, the Gophers (7-0) came in to the game with a new sense of confidence in Williams Arena, following their win over No. 12 Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 29.

The Gophers beat Air Force 67-50 after the Falcons cut the deficit close near the end of the game.

To start the game against the Falcons, Taiye Bello racked up ten rebounds in the first eight minutes, and Minnesota was tied with Air Force after the first quarter at 11 a piece.

“During our preparation we talked a lot about how well they rebound, so that was something I was trying to focus on from the start,” Bello said. “Our coaches were letting us know that they’re really aggressive and they’re not going to back down easy. … You could see they did stay with us at times in the game.”

After scoring six points in the first quarter, in the second quarter Kenisha Bell quickly scored 12 more points to get her team ahead. Midway through the game, the score was 30 to 16 in favor of Minnesota.

However, the third quarter saw the momentum swing to Air Force’s side. The Falcons used a 14-1 run to cut a 20 point Minnesota lead to seven points with about 13 minutes left in the game.

During the fourth quarter the Falcons reduced the deficit to 46-41 with six minutes left in the game, but then Bell took over again. She finished the game with 27 points, six steals and nine rebounds, on 50 percent shooting. Aside from Bell, all other players on both teams combined to make just 31 percent of their shots on Sunday.

“I think the stops and steals kind of got us going, and we were able to get the rebounds and push in transition,” Bell said. “It was tough for them to guard it, because we was kind of pushing it pretty fast; just taking it to them in the second half.”

Both teams struggled to hit jump shots, but the struggles were worse for the Falcons, and it ended up costing them the game. Ultimately, Minnesota got the best of Air Force by a score of 67-50.

“Give Air Force credit. They played a really good game, had a great game plan, and they had us … before we went on a run,” said head coach Lindsay Whalen. “Our veterans again came through to push us over the top.”

The next game for the Gophers will be the last of a stretch of six consecutive home games for the team. Minnesota faces the University of the Incarnate Word at Williams Arena on Dec. 5, before traveling to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to play Boston College on Dec. 9.

“There is ebbs and flows in every season, and so we knew that Air Force would be a team that they were going to be physical with us the whole night,” Whalen said. “I give our team a lot of credit in being able to have a game plan just a couple of days ago, and kind of have to switch things up today in the way we played and the way we competed.”

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