Coming into Thursday’s game, Minnesota was down, having lost seven of its previous eight games.
The Gophers (14-7) came back to get on the winning track again with a 61-54 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats (13-8).
“We had to just respond. We lost the last couple games in the fourth quarter, [because] we rolled over when teams made their run late in the game,” said junior Jasmine Brunson.
Minnesota wasted no time after arriving in Evanston, Illinois, and less than five minutes into the first quarter they were up 10-6.
In the second quarter the score was 19-10 in favor of the Gophers. Northwestern had gone more than seven minutes without scoring, and the Wildcats had nine turnovers to Minnesota’s six.
Then, Northwestern fired back with a 9-0 run just before halftime to get the score to 30-28 in favor of Minnesota.
At the opening of the third quarter, the Gophers responded with a 9-0 run of their own. Northwestern fought to stay in the game, but Minnesota built up an 11-point advantage at the end of the third quarter with a score was 48-37.
The Wildcats started the final quarter of play with a steal and two free throws. For the next five minutes, the teams went back and forth. With less than five minutes left in the game, Northwestern made one last push for the win.
The Wildcats were able to get Minnesota’s lead down to three points after a series of gutsy plays, but a deep 3-pointer and three free throws from Destiny Pitts put the game away.
“I was pretty calm, I just knew we needed a big bucket during that time because we were struggling to score during that stretch,” Pitts said. “I shot it with confidence and I kind of knew that was going to seal the game for us.”
Pitts finished the game with 19 points on seven shot attempts. Senior Kenisha Bell added 17, while Brunson scored another 14.
“We are able to respond, regardless of the losses that we have in close games and not being able to play a full 40 minutes. We have the ability to do that and we showed that tonight,” Brunson said.
The game was the first time that Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen faced Northwestern assistant coach Tangela Smith. Both have storied basketball careers. Whalen is a four-time WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist while Smith won two WNBA championships of her own.
Next, Minnesota will play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (17-4) at home on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
“I think this win is going to give us confidence going forward, especially going against a very good Rutgers team on Sunday. I think this win is going to really help us and bring us momentum, especially playing at home, and we want to snap our losing streak we’ve had at home,” Pitts said.