It had been more than a month since the Gophers women's basketball team had won a game. So this one felt good.
"It had been a while, but we knew it was coming,'' senior guard Gadiva Hubbard said. "We've had great practices leading up to this. We were going to be in this game.''
They were more than in it. Never trailing but forced into overtime, the Gophers (2-4 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten) opened the extra session with a 7-0 run and held on for an 88-83 victory over the Badgers in Madison, Wis.
Hubbard led the Gophers with 24 points. Nine of them came in OT, the final nine points for Minnesota as the Gophers held off Wisconsin (3-4, 0-4).
It was the first Minnesota victory since an opening-night nonconference win over Eastern Illinois. "Obviously you enjoy the win,'' coach Lindsay Whalen said. "We got some really good stuff done. It took a little extra time, but it's a win. We battled.''
The Gophers began to look like a team with some depth, at least until Sara Scalia (11 points) took a hard hit setting a screen and was out for all but 4 minutes of the second half.
But five Gophers scored in double figures, including 16 from Laura Bagwell-Katalinich off the bench, which combined for 24 points. Jasmine Powell had 11 points and five assists. Kadi Sissoko had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, often working a two-player game with Bagwell-Katalinich. Kayla Mershon, in her second game with the Gophers, had five points but seven rebounds.
The Gophers forced 21 turnovers but had just 10, outscoring the Badgers 25-9 in that department. Minnesota had 19 offensive rebounds to Wisconsin's six, outrebounding the bigger Badgers 39-36 overall.
The Gophers needed all of that.
Minnesota had an 11-point lead at the half, a six-point lead entering the fourth quarter. But Wisconsin — which got 28 points from Julie Pospisilova and 21 from Sydney Hilliard, rallied to tie the game three times in the final 4 minutes.
Each time the Gophers answered. Hubbard's drive for a score with 23 seconds left gave the Gophers the lead, only to have Imani Lewis score with 6 seconds left to force the OT.
But the Gophers came out hard in OT.
Katalinich opened it with a jumper in the lane. Then freshman Alexia Smith stole the ball from Pospisilova at midcourt and went in for the score. After Lewis missed for Wisconsin, Powell hit a three-pointer, forcing a Wisconsin timeout.
It worked, for a while. Wisconsin battled back to within two, 82-80, on Pospisilova's three-pointer with 1:01 left. After Hubbard missed, the Badgers got the ball, but they were called for a technical with 23 seconds left for trying to call a timeout they didn't have.
"Making the two free throws and getting the ball back?'' Hubbard said. "That was a really big turn. It gave us breathing room.''
Hubbard hit those two free throws. On the ensuing possession Hubbard was fouled and made two more free throws with 19 seconds left to put the Gophers up six, and in control for good.
"It felt great,'' Bagwell-Katalinich said. "It's hard to win a game in the Big Ten, we're realizing that. When you put together a game like we did, you enjoy it.''
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.