Destiny Pitts remembers saying in preseason interviews that the Gophers women’s basketball team was going to be one to watch out for this season. She figured people just laughed it off.
“ ‘She’s just a freshman. She probably doesn’t know what she’s talking about,’ ” Pitts said. “But it’s kind of showing now.”
The latest piece of evidence was a dominant 93-74 upset victory over No. 10 Maryland on Sunday in front of an announced 4,625 fans at Williams Arena. It was Minnesota’s second victory over a ranked opponent in five days and moved the Gophers into a third-place tie in the Big Ten, just one game out of first.
The Gophers (21-6, 10-4) are 3-0 against ranked teams this season. They are also 13-1 at home and have won seven of eight overall. Sunday, they shot 52.5 percent from the field, compared to 41.1 percent for Maryland, and made 14 of 24 three-pointers.
The top four teams in the Big Ten standings will receive a double-bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, which starts next week.
Coach Marlene Stollings said she was impressed by her team’s maturity and that the Gophers won the defensive rebound battle 28-24.
“We’re really on a high right now,” Stollings said. “We’re playing extremely well.”
Maryland (22-5, 11-3), which has won or tied for the Big Ten regular-season title every season since joining the conference in 2014-15, has dropped two consecutive games and fallen into a tie for first place with Ohio State. Usually a solid defensive team, the Terrapins surrendered at least 93 points for only the third time this season; in November they gave up 94 to No. 3 South Carolina and 97 to No. 1 Connecticut.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese called Minnesota’s performance sensational and efficient. “The basket was as big as an ocean,” the former Gophers coach said.
The Gophers, who had been 0-7 against the Terps, rattled off a 14-4 run to end the first quarter up by five. The lead only ballooned from there. They kept the pressure on in the second quarter with a 7-0 run that took 48 seconds, resulting in Maryland taking a timeout down by 11.
Sophomore guard Gadiva Hubbard, who scored a game-high 22 points with four three-pointers, could see the turning point in that quarter.
“They were getting tired, and we looked like we just got our second wind,” Hubbard said. “We were pushing the pace.”
The Terrapins got within seven at 39-32, but the Gophers responded with a string of four three-pointers in a span of 2 minutes, 38 seconds from Pitts and senior Carlie Wagner to push the lead to 14 points. The Gophers led 53-39 at the half and were up by as many as 27 in the third quarter, reaching 90 points for a third consecutive Big Ten game for the first time in program history.
Junior guard Kenisha Bell reached the 1,000-points mark on a shot from beyond the arc in the second quarter as part of her 21-point effort. She is the 24th player in team history to reach the milestone.
Pitts finished with 20 points, taking all her shots from three-point range, going 6-for-11. She also had nine rebounds and four assists.
Wagner reached double figures (17 points) for the 108th time in her career, tying Lindsay Whalen for second on the Gophers’ all-time list.
“At this point, I think it’s confidence,” Wagner said. “The ball’s really rolling for us right now, so it’s exciting.”