Even after all the missed shots and the turnovers — 40 minutes of basketball Saturday night at Williams Arena that will have Lindsay Whalen poring over film for hours — it was as win.
And she'll take it. Whalen, the first-year Gophers women's basketball coach, is practical that way.
Yes, her team shot just 32.7 percent, made only one three-pointer, turned the ball over 23 times and trailed by seven entering the fourth. But:
"In the fourth quarter we gutted it out," Whalen said after a 53-48 victory that pushed the Gophers to 3-0. "We did what we had to do to get the win."
Most of the credit Saturday goes to guards Kenisha Bell and Jasmine Brunson and double-double machine Taiye Bello.
In order: Bello played all 10 minutes in the fourth quarter, getting 11 of her 18 rebounds and scoring eight of her 13 points. Brunson scored eight of her points in the final 10 minutes, and Bell had six points and an assist in the fourth. Together they scored 22 of the Gophers' 24 points in the fourth.
Bell finished with a game-high 21 points on a night when she was 6-for-23 overall and 9-for-17 on free throws.
Perhaps most impressive was Bello, who has recorded double-doubles in all three games.
"She willed us at times," Whalen said. "If not the whole fourth quarter."
Indeed. Down seven to start the fourth, the Gophers set the tone for the rest of the game with their first possession of the quarter. Bello missed a shot, but Annalese Lamke got the rebound. She fed Bell, who missed a shot. But Bello got the rebound, made a move and put it back.
That was the start of a 15-2 Gophers run that turned that seven-point deficit into a 44-38 lead on Bell's three-point play with 3:38 left.
"I knew the game wasn't over," Bell said. "I got my team and my coaches in my ear the whole time, saying, 'We got it.' Just having them in my ear, saying positive things, kept me going."
Preparing for the game, Whalen said she knew this would be a challenge for her team, the way San Diego plays defense. They made ball movement difficult, causing turnovers, with enough quickness to pester the Gophers guards on the perimeter.
Sydney Shepard led San Diego with 14 points.
The good news is the Gophers played strong defense, too, holding San Diego to 48 points on 20-for-60 shooting.
The Gophers, meanwhile, finally got it going, at least relatively speaking. After scoring just 29 points in the first three quarters, Minnesota outscored San Diego 24-12 in the fourth.
"We guarded really hard tonight," Whalen said. "We were able to make it just as hard on them as it was for us on offense."