Minneapolis, MN — The Minnesota Golden Gophers completely controlled the game from tip-off, soundly defeating the Penn State Lady Lions 101-68 on Sunday during their Pink Game to raise awareness for cancer research.
It was clear to the fans and spectators alike that this was more than just a game for the Golden Gophers.
“It’s just a really special day for us, all of the survivors in the audience that come to this game, it means a lot to them," said Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings. "We run across people every year that come to this game and maybe this game only and they find strength and hope from this game."
“It meant a lot more than just a win for us today in a number of areas off the court.”
In fact, Minnesota donated a check worth $6,000 to the Kay Yow Foundation.
MN Golden Gophers raised $6000 before their Pink Game for #cancer awareness! Congrats Gophers! • • • #basketball #love #awesome #happy #cool #instagood #instadaily #family #igers #beautiful #fun #strong #gym #determination #fit #fitspo #fitness #l4l #amazing #follow #followme #wow #sports #buzz #swishappeal #swag #style #mngoldengophers #pennstate
Minnesota guard Godiva Hubbard started off with the first eight points of the game for the Golden Gophers, giving them an easy lead right away. She kept her confident shot to the final buzzer, ending the game as the overall high-scorer with 25 points.
“I think from warm-ups I knew that I would be able to shoot well, my shot was working in warm-ups, so I started hitting at the beginning of the game and just kept going with it,” Hubbard said.
Gopher guard Kenisha Bell’s consistent, never-give-up hustle paired with her natural speed, made her 15 points, 10 assists and five rebounds look easy. Alongside her younger counterpart in forward Destiny Pitts, who scored 17 points, Penn State had trouble trying to find a Gopher weakness.
Minnesota doubled Penn State's point total in the first half, finishing with a 55-26 lead. Adding insult to injury, the Gophers held Penn State to just 8 points in the second quarter. The Gophers' execution of their 2-3 zone forced 12 critical turnovers for the Lady Lions and many contested shots.
“It’s tied for the lowest we’ve held a team to all year. To do that at this time of year, in February, I think speaks to the progression of our defense and how well we are playing in that area,” said Stollings.
“I just thought that the first half in particular, that we were very mature with our reads, we were very poised and we looked like a veteran team in many areas. That’s where you want to be at this point in time.”
Lady Lions guard Teniya Page kept Penn State somewhat in the game. Aside from being the leading scorer for her team (22 pts.), her persistence at drawing fouls on Minnesota guard Carlie Wagner and Hubbard forced the two scorers to take a seat on the bench early on in the first half.
Page also systematically drew fouls on many other Gopher players, but creating fouls doesn’t always translate to points. Although Page’s plan was good to start, the fault came in the strength of Minnesota’s strong bench depth. 10 of the Gophers' 12 players contributed points on the board, and four players had double-digit games.
The Lady Lions biggest downfall? They were unable to capitalize on their opportunities to score. Where Penn State failed to do this, Minnesota thrived, shooting over 50 percent from the field, 57 percent from behind the arc and hitting 13 three-pointers throughout the game.
The entire game was dominated by the Gophers, which only became more apparent as the game went on. Page was the only player who could do anything for the Lady Lions.
“She’s a very good player, she played USA basketball over the summer and I told the team, she’s going to hit some contested shots, we just want to try and keep her in front of us and enforce a lot of those and make her life a little bit difficult throughout the night,” said Stollings.
One player on Penn State was not enough to overcome Minnesota, a team that consistently has multiple players giving double-figured performances.
After the big win for Minnesota, they are now 19-6 on the season and 8-4 in Big Ten Conference play. The victory placed the Gophers in fourth of Big Ten standings and sitting with a double-bye for the conference tournament next month.
With four more critical conference games before the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota is taking it one step at a time.
“That’s the only thing that matters, is that game, that day and who’s next. The one thing that I really like with our team is just how focused they are per scout, per opponent. The game plan matters so much this time of year, it becomes a big chess match,” said Stollings.
The Gophers are looking to do something great this season, their game-to-game performances recently are proving their postseason expectations to be legitimate.
“I tell them all the time, it’s one of my most special teams that I’ve coached, and I really mean that. They have an opportunity to do something really big, they know that, something that maybe hasn’t even been done here.”