Minneapolis, MN — This game was tight across the boards, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers managed to come out on top.
Outscoring the Iowa Hawkeyes 19-14 in the third quarter, the Golden Gophers (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) ultimately ended up the victors, upsetting the No. 20 Hawkeyes (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten) in a close 77-72 game Sunday night.
Minnesota junior guard Kenisha Bell was off to her usual speedy maneuvers, immediately stuffing Iowa Forward Megan Gustafson and sweeping up a fast-break layup the other direction - -letting the Hawkeye squad know she’s wasn't there to play nice.
Bell wasn’t the only Gopher to cause difficulty for Gustafson, as it was Minnesota’s plan from the get-go to wreak havoc on the star forward. Rarely was Gustafson seen without two players on trapping her every move.
Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings praised Bell's passion and fore that she displayed throughout the game.
“Her will and desire and heart, in terms of wanting to win the game. I never saw her waver one ounce and that’s maturity,” said Minnesota’s head coach Strollings. “We’re looking at someone who’s going to be a pro one day and I thought she handled the game, throughout, as a pro.”
“She was just very poised the entire time, she didn’t waver [in the] ups and downs of the game and that’s something that we’ve been wanting from Kiki, consistently. I thought that she did that tonight at the highest level.”
The Gophers had ice in their veins at the free throw line, shooting 11-of-12 in the second half. Stollings noted how that and their defense in the third quarter, were arguably the differences in the game.
Bell consistently showed that she would not be denied, even using the most unconventional moves to get the ball in the hoop.
The Hawkeyes kept themselves closely in the game by utilizing their inside game. Almost every basket they scored came from a give-and-go, pick-and-roll, or simply blitzing by their Gopher defender on a one-on-one matchup, ost of which were instigated by Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle.
The scrappy, deadly duo of Doyle and Gustafson is the force that kept the Hawkeyes alive. In the first half, Doyle made up for in points what double-teamed Gustafson was unable to deliver. Doyle finished the game with 21 points.
Gustafson was still able to sneak out a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but Minnesota was happy they held the strong forward to less than her standard.
“I thought our five players positionally did an outstanding job on her," Stollings commented. "I was extremely happy and pleased with how we battled with her all night, because she’s been averaging about 33 points and 14 rebounds over the last three games, so she had to work very hard for those 20 points, aim for those 10 rebounds. We had fresh bodies coming at her all night, our goal was to wear her down a little bit."
Minnesota guard Destiny Pitts showed in this game what she’s been showing all season long -- if you let her hit her stride, she’s unstoppable. She proved this again against Iowa, when she hit two consecutive three-point shots with under four minutes to go in the third quarter.
The fuse Pitts lit up with her charged threes, lit a flame in the rest of her squad, and the Gophers sieged ahead to gain their biggest lead of the game.
Minnesota guard Carlie Wagner was one most positively affected by the burst of fire, as she went from being “off” in the first half to hitting every shot she put up and swiping multiple steals. She became the Hawkeyes' worst nightmare on defense and never ceased to quit.
Wagner ended the game with 15 points and 5 steals, while Pitts finished out with 11 points.
“I’m really pleased with the maturity of our team, our veterans and how they handled the moment of that, just figuring out openings and figuring out where to pick them apart at certain times in the game,” Stollings said.
Although the upset was a spark for Minnesota, the rematch turnaround between these two squads is quick. They will meet again on Feb. 4th, this time on Hawkeye ground. The time is evident and it will tell if the Gophers can upset Iowa twice.
Minnesota UPSETS Iowa 77-72!Posted by Swish Appeal on Sunday, January 21, 2018