Minneapolis, MN — The Minnesota Golden Gophers (21-6, 10-4 B1G) played their Sunday best at the most crucial time, upsetting the no. 10 Maryland Terrapins (22-5, 11-3 B1G) 93-74.
The Gophers have been on a massive roll as of late, winning their third consecutive game against a top-25 team, something they haven't accomplished since March of 2004.
For the first five minutes of play, the Gophers and Terrapins were evenly matched, exchanging baskets on every possession. At the end of the first quarter though, Minnesota ran up a 24-19 lead.
The Gopher’s didn’t stop there, as they fought to extend their lead early in the second quarter. They went on a 9-3 run over Maryland, creating an 11-point advantage.
The Terrapins tried to retaliate by instigating a half-court press. For two consecutive possessions, Minnesota guard Kenisha Bell was caught in a trap and lost the ball, as Maryland capitalized on their end of the court.
Initially, the press worked, but soon the Minnesota squad adapted to the pressure and readjusted to break the press. This resulted in Maryland falling back into a man defense, and the Gophers continued to grow their lead higher. By halftime, Minnesota had worked up a comfortable 14-point lead, 53-39.
Maryland head coach Brneda Frese commented at halftime about how easy it was for Minnesota to score.
“The basket was as big as an ocean,” Frese said.
Minnesota guard Carlie Wagner commented on how her squad did their best to maintain their composure and not let the moment get ahead of them.
“We played an outstanding first half and I thought we stayed consistent," Wagner said. "When they went on that run, we didn’t show that we were worried about it, we kept a stone-face and just kept playing. Going into the half with that mentality and that confidence is what boosted us through the second half."
The Gophers were consistent from behind the arc, as they shot 14-for-24 at 58 percent. They also racked up 18 points off of turnovers and 15 points from offensive rebounding.
Pitts was especially on fire as she drilled a game-high six triples for the home team.
“Minnesota was sensational in every effort tonight. We did have a game plan to try to run them off the three-point line but they were really able to get downhill on us, penetrate and kick and get a lot of great looks and put them in,” Frese said.
Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings felt like her team was on point today with its shooting.
“I don’t think there was ever a doubt, we shot the ball extremely well, the 14 made three’s is the most that they’ve given up in a game in terms of three-point shooting,” Stollings said.
Minnesota had four players in double-digits: guard Gadiva Hubbard had 22 points, Bell had 21, forward Destiny Pitts had 20 and Wagner had 17 points. Pitts talked about the difficulty of trying to go toe-to-toe with the entire team.
“It’s hard to match up with our whole team, so you try to focus on one than somebody else is going to be open. You have to pick your poison on who you’re going to guard,” Pitts said.
The Gophers have only two games left in their regular season before the B1G Tournament, and they’ve won their last four games to put themselves in a good position.
“It’s been 13 years since this program has knocked off three top 25 teams in one season, just a phenomenal game for our team. We’re really on a high right now, we are playing extremely well. We are peaking at exactly the right time,” said Stollings.
Wagner commented on how this year's Minnesota team has banded together.
“It’s a whole new team this year, I think they’re seeing a team they haven’t seen before, so it’s really exciting," Wagner said. "After last season, they kind of counted us out and that really bummed us. We worked really hard this offseason to get to this point and it’s finally showing."