The Gophers brought the Nittany Lions to Williams Arena on Sunday to go for their sixth consecutive victory.
Penn State (10-15) came into the contest second-to-last in the Big Ten Conference standings, while Minnesota (19-7) was riding high on the waves of a five-game win streak. That recent success continued for the team as they were able to secure another victory, this time 97-67.
Before the game at half court, head coach Lindsay Whalen recognized senior Kenisha Bell for scoring 2,000 career points. Unfortunately for Gophers fans, Bell suffered an apparent lower body injury two minutes into the game and needed help walking off of the court.
“I just [had] to fight through the pain and I [knew] my team would appreciate me being tough, coming out and helping out as much as I can,” Bell said.
She returned to action later in the first quarter, but by that time the Gophers were down 9-2 midway through the first quarter.
“It was nerve-wracking for a second for sure, I know [Bell] is tough, though,” Whalen said. “Next thing I knew, she was able to be back. She probably went and walked it off, so I put her right back in. I’ve been through that too with ankle sprains, and it’s better to get back out there and not let it get stiff.”
With the return of Bell, Minnesota immediately went on a 26-8 run to take the lead and finish the first quarter up by 11 points.
In the second quarter, the Gophers continued to dominate as the home team outscored Penn State 31-17.
The score at halftime was 59-34, and Minnesota was ahead by 30 points one minute into the third quarter. After three quarters the score was 78-49. In the end, the 97-point total marked a season high.
“Some nights the shots are going in, and it gets contagious. Everybody’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Whalen said. “Shooting 55 percent is a pretty good recipe for a good game. We’ve also won some games where we shot in the 30s, so you always have to rely on your defense. It was good tonight that everybody saw the ball go through the net.”
All Minnesota starters scored in double digits, with Destiny Pitts leading scorers at 22 points. Taiye Bello had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Next up, the Gophers will have one of their hardest tests of the season when they travel to College Park, Maryland on Thursday to play the No. 7 Terrapins.
“We’ve gotten this far by doing it together and doing all the extra stuff,” Whalen said. “We’ve had overtime games, and we’ve had to come back on teams, ranked, not-ranked. All [of] the teams are playing hard and playing with a sense of desperation to head into the tournament with as high [of] a seed as possible.”