BOSTON – Minutes after recording her ninth win in as many games, Gophers women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen approached sophomore Destiny Pitts, her hand extended, her expression one of relief and satisfaction.
Whalen slapped the hand of Pitts before engulfing her in embrace. It was a fitting show of appreciation for a stellar, career-defining performance courtesy of the unflappable guard/forward from Detroit.
Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum, Pitts sizzled, draining a season-high six three-pointers on eight attempts and finishing with a career-high 35 points. Pitts was held in check from deep in the fourth quarter, but her sensational free-throw shooting iced Minnesota’s strongest road win of the season, a back-and-forth affair in which the No. 14 Gophers outlasted Boston College 77-69.
The Gophers are 9-0 for just the third time in program history. The first two times came during Whalen’s junior and senior seasons with starts of 12-0 in 2002-03 and 15-0 in 2003-04.
Instead of embarking on a bout of self-reflection postgame, Whalen chose to laud the stunning effort of Pitts.
“That was huge,” said Whalen. “We needed all of those points, too. Those were some clutch plays. We needed her. At times when they tried to go zone and mix it up on us, it was good when she was able to hit some shots and take them out of it.”
The Gophers rode an 11-0 first-quarter run to a 10-point advantage.
Boston College (8-2) worked to trim the lead, coming out in a matchup 2-3 zone to begin the second quarter. The look threw the Gophers for a loop momentarily, but soon Pitts began to percolate, forcing BC back into man-to-man.
“It just says a lot about our point guards and our team because we were able to recognize the change in defense,” Pitts said. “That was good on their part, changing it up so we could get out of our rhythm. We were able to recognize the change and see where we had to penetrate to get those points.”
The Eagles appeared re-energized in the third quarter, outscoring Minnesota 25-17 behind lights-out shooting from guard Taylor Ortlepp (25 points). BC led 54-53 with 10 minutes remaining.
Hampered with foul trouble and held scoreless through three quarters, junior forward Taiye Bello was reinserted into the Gophers lineup in the fourth, helping stabilize their defense. With the Gophers now whirring around, BC turned ice cold, suffering a scoring drought of 6 minutes, 53 seconds after going up four at 7:38.
“They’re going to be a really good team for a lot of years to come,” Whalen said of the Eagles. “Fortunately we were able to get some stops in the fourth and win that last five minutes. That’s why we were able to win.”
Bello got on the board herself with just over four minutes left, nailing a foul line jumper to tie things at 60.
Pitts followed with a steal on the other end, setting up junior guard Jasmine Brunson. Brunson made a strong drive into the lane, capping the move with a lefthanded layup and handing Minnesota a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Brunson had seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter. She also had five assists while playing a career-high 39 minutes.
Center Annalese Lamke also was instrumental in the effort, notching 13 points and nine rebounds.
Ortlepp briefly revived the Eagles by hitting a three with 45 seconds left to make it 67-63, but Pitts never let it get any closer, her steely nerves the catalyst for an 11-for-12 performance from the charity stripe.
The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year has now hit five or more threes in back-to-back games, putting the rest of the Big Ten on notice.
“I feel like I’m in a good rhythm,” Pitts said. “It felt really good, especially to get a tough road win.”