In some ways the Gophers’ 77-72 victory over No. 20 Iowa in women’s basketball on Sunday defied logic.
After all, the Gophers shot only 39.2 percent from the field, they were 4-for-15 from three-point range and they committed 15 turnovers. Freshman standout Destiny Pitts was limited to 11 minutes because of foul trouble. And the Gophers trailed at halftime, and the Hawkeyes had been 13-0 this season when leading at intermission.
But the Gophers (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) willed their way to victory before an announced crowd of 4,182 at Williams Arena. Guard Kenisha Bell led the way with 21 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Four teammates also scored in double figures.
“I never saw her waver one ounce, and that’s maturity,” coach Marlene Stollings said of Bell. “We’re looking at someone who’s going to be a pro one day, and I thought she handled the game throughout as a pro.”
Taiye Bello and Bryanna Fernstrom helped spell Pitts, combining for 23 points and 16 rebounds (nine on the offensive end) off the bench. They shot 10-for-12 from the field.
The duo also helped keep Megan Gustafson in check as much as that’s possible against the nation’s leader in double-doubles (19). Gustafson entered the game averaging 27.2 points and 14.3 rebounds per game in Big Ten play. She finished with 20 and 10.
Bello’s field goal with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter put the Gophers ahead for good 70-68. They sealed it with seven free throws — five by Bell and two by Carlie Wagner.
“We hit 11 of 12 in the second half, and it’s huge,” Stollings said. “A game goal for us was to get to the free-throw line for 20 shots, we were right there at 19, but making them is obviously most important.”
The Gophers, 10-1 at home this season, defeated a ranked opponent for the first time since February 2016 and have won four of their past five. They already have matched their victory total from last season.
Iowa (15-5, 3-4) has lost three in a row and four of five. During the losing streak, the Hawkeyes have shot 5-for-47 from three-point range.
There were 11 ties and 12 lead changes in the game.