Evanston, Ill. – This time, the Gophers held on.
The Gophers women’s basketball team had let halftime leads slip away in its past four losses, but on Thursday night it reversed recent history and beat Northwestern 61-54 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak and a string of seven losses in eight games. The Gophers made it happen with their best rebounder, Taiye Bello, on the bench for much of the game because of foul trouble.
Northwestern (13-8, 6-4) had won four in a row.
“We’ve had a tough couple of weeks,” Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen said in a postgame radio interview. “But I’m just so proud of this group the way that they responded to some adversity here.”
After the Wildcats’ Veronica Burton banked in a one-handed, half-court heave to cut the Gophers’ lead to two at halftime, Minnesota (14-7, 3-7 Big Ten) scored the first nine points of the second half and led by as many as 14 in the third quarter.
Destiny Pitts scored the Gophers’ final seven points of the game, icing the win with four three throws in the final half-minute. She had 19 points for the third consecutive game and is 13-for-25 from three-point range during that stretch.
Kenisha Bell had 17 points and four steals, and Jasmine Brunson had 14 points, five assists and four steals.
Pitts and Bell each played 40 minutes, and for the first time this season Whalen brought Annalese Lamke off the bench.
Bello did not play in the second quarter and went back to the bench just 5:50 into the third quarter when she picked up her fourth foul. She did not return until the 6:44 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Gophers held Northwestern standout Lindsey Pulliam to 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats, who were without sophomore post player Abi Scheid (Elk River) for the sixth game in a row because of an undisclosed injury.