For the past three days Gadiva Hubbard had been sick. Unable to practice, running a fever.
Sunday the fever broke.
This is a good thing. Be-cause on a day when the Gophers women’s basketball team seemed a half-step out of rhythm, Hubbard scored a season-high 24 points in a 76-67 victory over Cal Davis in Williams Arena that was probably a little too close for comfort.
But it was a satisfying end to an emotional day.
It began with the Gophers (9-1) looking back to a glorious past, with the No. 4 banner of Janel McCarville unveiled in a pregame ceremony attended by her dad, Terry, many teammates from the 2003-04 team that reached the NCAA Final Four and 4,673 fans.
It was a relatively brief but touching ceremony. After a tribute video, Gophers coach Lindsay Whalen thanked her friend and former teammate. Then after a countdown from four — naturally — the banner was unveiled in the rafters, right next to Whalen’s.
“I’m thankful she pushed to have it happen,’’ McCarville said. “I’m excited they’re going to put us next to each other. For all the memories we shared together, we’ll be up in the rafters together. Just a tremendous moment.’’
One that proved hard to live up to.
Down a point after a quarter, the Gophers used a 23-13 second quarter to take the lead for good. The Gophers were up nine at the half and 11 after three before the Aggies (4-6) pulled within four on Makaila Sanders’ basket with 31 seconds left. But Destiny Pitts hit two free throws on each of the next two Gophers possessions — the last two with 12 seconds left — to ice the game.
“That’s a good team,’’ Whalen said. “I thought they challenged us. The pushed us. We’re happy to come out with a win.’’
Hubbard scored 10 of her points in the first quarter and six in the crucial fourth. Pitts scored 10 of her points in the second quarter. Forward Taiye Bello (17 points, nine rebounds) was the only other Gophers player in double figures.
Nina Bessolo led the Aggies with 17 points.
Hubbard wasn’t sure she’d play until after warmups. “From the beginning, when I made my first three, that’s what gave me my confidence,’’ Hubbard said, her voice still raspy. “My teammates found me.”
Said Pitts: “For her to come out here and grit this one out with us means a lot.’’
The Gophers defended relatively well, especially in the fourth, holding the Aggies to 7-for-18 shooting. But UC Davis did manage to create a lot of open looks. The Aggies outshot the Gophers, made more field goals and hit three more three-pointers. But the Gophers had a 26-6 edge from the free-throw line.
It was the ninth straight victory for the Gophers, who have one more nonconference game — Saturday vs. Lehigh — before Big Ten play begins.
“There were times when it wasn’t so smooth,’’ Whalen said. “But we dug in and guarded. And these guys [nodding at Pitts and Hubbard] hit some big threes. We did enough to win it.’’