The Gophers women’s basketball team used a 24-0 run in the first quarter to put Kent State into a hole — make that a chasm — en route to a lopsided 92-62 victory over the Golden Flashes on Thursday night at Williams Arena.
Kent State scored the game’s first basket but then missed 19 consecutive shots and went nearly 10 minutes without a point as the Gophers built a 24-2 lead by the end of the opening quarter.
“They had a few open [shots],” Gophers coach Marlene Stollings said, referring to Kent State’s slow start, “but for the most part they got rattled pretty quickly because the looks weren’t clean. I think it had a lot to do with our defense.”
With the victory, Minnesota finished its rugged nonconference schedule with a 9-4 record, 7-1 at home. And, despite those four losses, the Gophers are No. 12 in the latest national RPI rankings — above any other Big Ten team.
Kent State (6-6), rebuilding under first-year coach Todd Starkey, wasn’t much of a challenge, though.
Five Gophers scored in double figures. Kenisha Bell had 20 points, Whitney Tinjum 18, Joanna Hedstrom 17 and Carlie Wagner and Allina Starr 12 apiece. Bell also had seven assists and four steals.
Minnesota led 44-24 at halftime behind Tinjum and Hedstrom with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Gophers shot 50.7 percent from the field, the Golden Flashes 27.8 percent. The disparity was even greater on three-point shooting, with the Gophers making eight of 19, Kent State one of 16.
Minnesota opens its conference schedule at Ohio State (9-3) on Wednesday. The Buckeyes are No. 12 in the Associated Press poll this week.
“We feel we’ve been very battle tested here in nonconference play and the Big Ten will be no different,” Stollings said. “I like our record based on our nonconference opponents. Going in 9-4 is a good place for us to go in based on our schedule that we have. We’re looking forward to the start of Big Ten play.”
And the holiday break from classes.
“They have pretty much a pro schedule now,” Stollings said. “They have three weeks where they get to play basketball and, for a basketball player, it’s a great time of year. You can really spend a lot of extra time on your game, honing your skills. No excuses. You don’t have the stress of class.
“It’s a great time for us to really take a big jump here.”
The Gophers will be missing one key player for a while. Guard Gadiva Hubbard, who was averaging 13.8 points to lead all Big Ten freshmen in scoring, will be out for about three weeks because of mononucleosis.