SOUTH BEND, IND. – What looked like a mismatch in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge for much of the first half, tightened up considerably in the second.
That’s when junior guard Gadiva Hubbard took over. Her three-pointer gave the Gophers women’s basketball team a lead it never relinquished in beating Notre Dame 75-67 on Wednesday night.
Hubbard, who finished with a game-high 20 points in the Gophers’ first road game of the season, put Minnesota (6-1) ahead 61-59 with one of her six three-pointers with 4 minutes, 25 seconds to play. She followed that with a layup and then Sara Scalia scored on a fast break to make it 65-59 after a 7-0 run.
Notre Dame got the next basket, but the Gophers scored the next eight points to pull away.
“We completely stopped playing defense after we took the lead,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
Senior forward Taiye Bello also had a huge game for the Gophers with 16 points and 16 rebounds — her fifth double-double of the season and 20th of her career. She also had five blocks. Destiny Pitts added 14 points and Jasmine Brunson 13. Brunson led the team with six assists, too.
Sam Brunelle led Notre Dame (5-5) with 19 points.
“Really disappointed in the defense and, for as bad as we were offensively in the first half, we came all the way back,” said McGraw, whose team trailed by 18 late in the second quarter. “But then [we] couldn’t find No. 34 [Hubbard] in our zone.
“We need to be smarter. Just a lack of awareness where their shooters were.”
The Gophers, who won their sixth game in a row, shot only 39% from the field — to Notre Dame’s 47% but they were much better on threes, making a season-high 12 of 32 while the Irish were one of eight. Hubbard was 6-for-13 behind the arc.
The Gophers led 33-21 at halftime — and it was that close only because the Irish went on a 6-0 run in the last two minutes.
“We couldn’t make a shot,” McGraw said. “I thought their defense was really good. They got really physical with us and just caved. We didn’t stay strong. We let them push us around. We got really scared and just wouldn’t attack. … We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Minnesota is now 3-0 all-time against the Irish, rebuilding after reaching the NCAA final last season, and 6-7 all-time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, including 2-5 on the road.
The Irish suffered their first loss in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in seven games since joining the ACC for the 2013-14 season. It also was only the second loss to a Big Ten team in 25 games since the 2009-10 season.