It was a first look at a work in progress. The Gophers women’s basketball team held an open scrimmage Sunday at Williams Arena against their men’s practice team.
It’s too early to draw any conclusions, but the workout provided an opportunity for impressions.
The first: It’s going to be nice to have redshirt junior Gadiva Hubbard back.
That was the first thing Lindsay Whalen, heading into her second year coaching the team, mentioned when asked about the scrimmage, which ended with the Gophers on the wrong end of a 75-67 score; some late cold shooting allowed the men’s team to finish the game on a 10-3 run.
What did you like?
“Diva,” Whalen said of Hubbard, who missed last season after having surgery on her right foot. “I liked having her on the court. She looks good. We keep bringing her along. Our starting group … was really good.”
The Gophers finished the 2018-19 season strong after Whalen went to a small lineup that had Taiye Bello at center.
That will be the Gophers’ plan this year as well, with some personnel changes. Gone is all-Big Ten guard and leader Kenisha Bell and her 19.1 points per game.
The question is: Where will the Gophers make up those points? Whalen believes junior guard Destiny Pitts — who finished last season strong — will have an uptick in scoring from her 16.3 ppg average. Ditto for second-year guard Mercedes Staples (3.4).
And then, Hubbard. She averaged 13.6 points and shot nearly 35% on three-pointers two seasons ago.
Whalen started with senior Taiye Bello in the middle Sunday, senior Jasmine Brunson at the point and Staples, Hubbard and Pitts providing spacing on the wing. Pitts (16 points), Hubbard (nine) and Staples (five) all hit three-pointers. Bello had 13 points, Brunson six.
Senior Kehinde Bello was the top post player off the bench, with freshman Jasmine Powell (eight points) and junior-college transfer Masha Adashchyk the first guards off the bench. Sara Scalia, a freshman guard from Stillwater, also saw a lot of action.
Hubbard’s return is big. Her three-point credibility will give the Gophers offensive spacing while also taking pressure off Pitts, who scored 20 or more points in eight of the Gophers’ final nine games last season.
“It felt good,” Hubbard said after playing competitively on the Williams Arena floor for the first time since the end of the 2017-18 season. “It wasn’t fun sitting on the bench, that’s for sure. I’m happy I can contribute again.”
Some other impressions from Sunday’s action:
• With the smaller lineup, rebounding could be an issue. After Taiye Bello — who finished second in the Big Ten in rebounding last season — who else can Whalen count on?
“Obviously Taiye is great, but everyone else is going to have to pick up the slack,” Whalen said. “We managed last year, so we’ll see.”
• The smaller lineup and the return of Hubbard will mean the Gophers will attempt more than the 15 three-point shots they averaged last season.
• Kehinde Bello appears bigger and stronger than last season, and she had some good moments Sunday. The Gophers, relatively thin in the post, will need her.