Indianapolis – Carlie Wagner scored 26 points while Kenisha Bell had 13, including a huge three-point play late in the fourth quarter, as the Gophers beat Penn State 70-64 on Thursday night in a second-round game of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The win ended the Gophers’ three-game losing streak and avenged a 77-66 road loss to the Lady Lions on Feb. 8.
The 10th-seeded Gophers (15-15) will play second-seeded Maryland (27-2), a team they lost to 93-60 on Sunday, at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals.
“A very talented Penn State team on a great run, great momentum coming into the tournament,” Gophers coach Marlene Stollings said. “Most proud of us forcing 18 turnovers [actually 16] and what we did with those turnovers.”
The Gophers scored 23 points off nine steals — Wagner and Bell had four apiece — and the other Lady Lions miscues.
Penn State (19-10), the No. 7 seed, fell behind early and lost despite Teniya Page’s 35 points, which tied for the third most in a conference tournament game.
“She’s a phenomenal player and had a great game for them,” Stollings said. “But what we did very well was not let another player … go off on us. So it’s hard to get beat by one player.”
The only other Lady Lions player in double figures was Sierra Moore with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gophers took a 5-0 lead on Whitney Tinjum’s three-pointer and by the end of the first quarter led 26-17, paced by Wagner’s 11 points. But she only got two more in the second, when Minnesota was held to seven points. Yet the Gophers were still ahead 33-29 at the half.
Penn State tied the score for the first time at 39-39 on Page’s three with 4:21 left in the third and took its first lead on Lindsey Spann’s layup a minute later.
There were several lead changes later in the quarter, but it ended with the Gophers up 46-45.
An 8-0 run gave the Gophers a 59-50 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Lions matched it to close within 61-59.
Bell countered with a layup and a free throw to put the Gophers ahead 64-59 with 2:19 left. Her two free throws made it 66-61 with 1:12 to play.
“We did a lot better job the fourth quarter, coming out and sitting down and playing defense,” Wagner said, “not letting them get to the basket so easy.”
Wagner also had a team-high 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season, and four assists. She made five three-pointers, too, including the 200th of her career.
Afterward the junior guard was clearly excited about the Gophers’ victory.
“This is March Madness now.” Wagner said. “This is so much fun. This is what we work for all year. And to be here is just so exciting. It’s amazing. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget.”
In other second-round games:
Northwestern 78, Iowa 73: Nia Coffey, a former Hopkins prep star, scored a season-high 34 points and Lauren Douglas added 17, including four free throws in the final 10 seconds, as the ninth-seeded Wildcats (20-10) edged the eighth-seeded Hawkeyes (17-13).
“[I was] just attacking the paint and getting easy layups and being aggressive,” said Coffey, whose 15 field goals tied the tournament record.
Megan Gustafson led Iowa with 27 points.
Purdue 72, Illinois 58: Andreona Keys scored a career-high 26 points, 19 in the second half, as the fifth-seeded Boilermakers (20-11) routed the 12th-seeded Illini (9-22). Keys was 10-for-14 from the field and had six rebounds and five assists. Kennedy Cattenhead led Illinois with 15 points.
Michigan State 70, Wisconsin 63: Tori Jankoska scored 22 points and Taya Reimer had 12 points and 12 rebounds as the sixth-seeded Spartans (20-10) came back to beat the 12th-seeded Badgers (9-22), who led by seven at halftime.