There are times — more and more often as the season progresses — when the Gophers women’s basketball team’s backcourt consists of two Jasmines: Brunson the senior, who starts at the point, and Powell the freshman, technically Brunson’s backup.
They’re both quick, fast, able to attack and dish. So what does coach Lindsay Whalen do when she wants to yell at one of the them when they’re both playing?
“Well, then it’s just ‘Jas,’ and they’re both in trouble,” Whalen said Sunday. “At the end of the day, if things aren’t going well, it’s the point guard’s fault. I had that for the four years I was here, and for 15 years in the WNBA. So they get that now.”
For the record: There wasn’t much to yell about Sunday at Williams Arena.
Shout? That’s another thing.
Starting strong and never trailing, answering every Arizona State run with one of their own, the Gophers (3-1) used their quickness to beat the 19th-ranked Sun Devils 80-66 for their third straight win.
It was the speed of the Gophers’ guards, the ball-handling ability of four of the Gophers’ five starters and the scoring of Destiny Pitts (22 points) and Gadiva Hubbard (20) that pushed the Gophers past Arizona State (2-1). Minnesota opened the game on a 9-0 run and led by 11 after a quarter. Up by five at halftime, the Gophers came out hard in a 22-12 third quarter that put them in control for good. They held the Sun Devils to 33.8% shooting.
For Pitts — who had deferred offensively while scoring just three points against Milwaukee on Thursday — it was a return to scoring form. The junior also became the 25th player in program history to pass 1,000 career points. She now has 1,017.
“I want to thank my teammates and my coaches,” Pitts said. “All the work they put in, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Against a Sun Devils team that uses full-court pressure most of the game, and one that entered the game averaging 31 points off turnovers, the Gophers were impressively efficient. ASU managed just eight points off 12 Gophers turnovers. Instead it was Minnesota that won that battle, scoring 17 off ASU turnovers and breaking the Sun Devils’ press to get easy baskets.
The Gophers scored 38 points in the paint and 24 on three-pointers — with Pitts and Hubbard combining to go 7-for-15 on threes. They scored 24 points on the break. Brunson had 15 points and six assists and Powell seven points and two assists; they combined for five steals of the Gophers’ eight steals. Taiye Bello (nine points, 11 boards) came a point away from her third consecutive double-double.
“A complete win for us,” Whalen said. “Executing the game plan from start to finish. We thought we could attack pressure with pressure. And these guys went out and did it, right from the start. It was probably one of the best communication games that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Whalen is determined to beef up her nonconference schedule. The Sun Devils were ranked and the second Gophers opponent coming off an NCAA Sweet 16 run.
The Gophers opened their season with a 12-point loss to that other Sweet 16 team, Missouri State. The improvement they have made in the past two weeks is obvious.
“At the end of the day, whoever we have on the schedule, we have to make a statement,” Brunson said. “Especially in front of the home crowd. I know the work we’ve put in as a team, and what we wanted to capitalize on.”
Much of what the Gophers were able to do started with the backcourt. Brunson played nearly 38½ minutes. Powell played nearly 15. Together — along with help from Pitts, Hubbard, Sara Scalia and Mercedes Staples — they were able to negate the Sun Devils’ pressure.
Osseo product Kiara Russell had only two points in 27 minutes for the Sun Devils, whose other starter from Minnesota, Rochester John Marshall’s Jamie Ruden, missed the game because of a foot injury.