Call it a bounce-back game for Gophers junior Kenisha Bell. The speedy guard went six games in a row this season with 20-plus points. Then she failed to hit double digits in three of the past four games.
Until Thursday night against rival Wisconsin.
Bell scored a game-high 24 points in the Gophers’ dominant 90-65 victory over Wisconsin in Big Ten women’s basketball at Williams Arena. It was the U’s 10th victory in a row in the Border Battle series. Minnesota is 15-5 overall (4-3 Big Ten), its best 20-game start since 1982-83.
“When I started drawing fouls, I was more confident in what I was doing and not overthinking passes and overthinking shots,” Bell said.
The Badgers (7-13, 0-7) couldn’t contain Bell, who also had a team-high eight assists and scored 20 of her points in the first half. She was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, tying a season high.
“So her stat line is packed,” coach Marlene Stollings said. “But what I really liked is how smart she was playing, and in particular how smart she was playing in the first half.”
The Gophers used an early 21-5 run to separate themselves from the Badgers. It was sparked by some quick points from sophomore forward Taiye Bello, who scored seven points and grabbed three boards in the final 1:19 of the first quarter.
All of a sudden, the Gophers had doubled up their opponent with a 24-12 lead.
“I just wanted to make sure that I come in and make sure that I’m efficient with the shots I take,” Bello said. “And make sure that I play defense and rebound.”
Bello did more of the same — a board and basket — in the second half, too. She finished with her second double-double of the season with 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
The Gophers came into the game seventh in the country in free throws made, and they were 21-for-23 from the line. They made their first 14 and 17 of 18 in the first half.
They led 56-33 after their highest-scoring first half of the Big Ten season.
Freshman Destiny Pitts recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Carlie Wagner also scored 15 points.
The Badgers shot just 22.2 percent from the floor in the first half compared to a 48.6 percent mark for the Gophers. The third-best rebounding team in the nation, Minnesota outrebounded Wisconsin 56-41.
Badgers senior guard and Park Center High School grad Cayla McMorris led the Badgers with 23 points. Minnetonka native Courtney Fredrickson had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Wisconsin has lost eight games in a row and 10 of its past 12 games.