The Gophers women’s basketball team hadn’t played since Dec. 13, so the players were sluggish for Friday afternoon’s game, according to coach Marlene Stollings.
“But we recovered very nicely,” she said.
The Gophers turned on the jets in the last couple of minutes before halftime and surged to a 101-75 victory over UC Riverside at Williams Arena in their final nonconference matchup .
The Gophers (11-2) trailed for most of the first two quarters before going on a 19-0 run for a 47-42 lead at the break. At one point, they were down by 15.
“We just talked about how we need to pick up our intensity,” Kenisha Bell said.
Things certainly picked up. One of Carlie Wagner’s six three-pointers circled the rim a few times before finding the bottom to get Minnesota within six points, and she added another with 1:27 left in the second quarter to get her team within one.
“I definitely felt there was a momentum change,” Wagner said. “As soon as we picked up our defensive intensity, our whole game turned around.”
Gadiva Hubbard added a pair of three-pointers in the final minute of the quarter to cap the impressive run. The big run was more typical of a team that averages 86.5 points per game. On the other side of the court, the Highlanders (3-10) were held scoreless for the last 4:41 of the opening half.
“You could definitely feel the game changing at that point, especially after a couple threes by Gadiva,” Wagner said.
Hubbard finished with 20 points and five three-pointers. Bell led the Gophers, who are 7-0 at home, with 30 points, one off her season high. She’s averaging 23 points her past five games.
The Gophers made 14 of 31 three-point shots (45.2 percent), a game after they made 16 against Cal Poly. They came in averaging 8.8 three-point field goals per game, ranking 11th in the nation. One of their goals for the game, Stollings said, was also to shoot 25 free throws; they shot 26 and made 19 of them.
Those offensive gems started with their defense, according to Stollings, especially in the second half when the Gophers picked up the intensity even more and forced 12 turnovers.
“That really led to a lot of our offensive production,” Stollings said.
Wagner was a big part of that, per usual. She scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds. She came into the game needing 18 points to pass Gophers great Janel McCarville (1,835 points) for sixth place on the program’s all-time scoring list. Wagner, and her coach, had no idea where she ranked on the list, however.
“Not off the top of my head, no,” Wagner said.
Wagner surpassed McCarville’s career total with just over seven minutes left in the game on a layup. She now has 1,841 career points.
“Good job, Waggie,” Stollings said.