Gophers women’s basketball freshman Destiny Pitts drained a three-pointer to tie the score with 15 seconds left against then-No. 21 Rutgers last weekend.
“She has no doubt in her ability at that moment,” coach Marlene Stollings said.
The Gophers forced overtime but lost 80-70.
They’ll shift focus to rivalry week at Williams Arena, where they’re 8-1, against Wisconsin and Iowa. The Gophers (14-5, 3-3) will seek a 10th consecutive victory over the Badgers (7-12, 0-6) on Thursday night. The Gophers beat the Badgers handily last year, 88-60.
The Badgers are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak and have dropped nine of their past 11 games.
Pitts, a 5-10 guard/forward from Detroit, played all 45 minutes against Rutgers, and scored 22 points, tying senior Carlie Wagner for the team-high. Pitts has reached double figures in points 12 times and has four double-doubles.
“What’s working well for me is just staying true to myself and what the team needs me to do,” Pitts said. “Just being in the right position for my teammates.”
She has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week five times already this season. As Stollings pointed out, former Gopher Amanda Zahui B. received that same honor a team-record seven times — and she was taken No. 2 overall in the 2015 WNBA draft. Former Gopher Rachel Banham earned the freshman honor five times.
“So to put that in perspective, you don’t get someone to perform at that level very often in your career,” Stollings said. “This is my 19th year at Division I, and I have to say that she is performing as poised and as mentally tough as any freshman that I’ve coached.”
Pitts is third on the team in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game. She leads the team in rebounding by far with 148 (34 offensive, 114 defensive), an average of 7.8 per game. She’s two behind Wagner for the team lead in three-point shots made with 53, and is shooting 40.5 percent from that range.
Stollings credits Pitts with the time she puts in after hours to absorb all the information she has to — everything from nutrition to the pace of play and basketball fundamentals. Pitts is willing to learn and grow, honing her craft on a daily basis, Stollings said.
“You don’t get a lot of freshmen that are ready to do that,” Stollings said. “They think that they’re already good enough.”
Pitts is part of an offense that averages 85.4 points per game, second in the Big Ten.
Shooting free throws and taking shots from beyond the arc continue to be strong categories for the Gophers. They rank seventh in the nation with 283 free throws made and 179 three-pointers.
Wagner also pointed to another reason for the Gophers’ success: Rebounding. They’re second in the Big Ten with 294 offensive rebounds and fourth with 535 defensive rebounds.
“We’re one of the top rebounding teams in the country,” Wagner said. “… We’ve got to keep that train rolling.”