Jasmine Powell is certain of this:
When Sara Scalia is in a zone, you get her the ball.
Thursday, Scalia, a sophomore guard for the Gophers women's basketball team, made a career-high six three-pointers. She scored a career-high 30 points. She scored 20 points in the second half, 11 of Minnesota's 22 fourth-quarter points.
This, folks, is a zone.
And the Gophers needed all of it to beat Purdue 77-72 at Williams Arena. Playing without senior guard Gadiva Hubbard, who hurt her right ankle late in a victory at Penn State on Monday, the Gophers got 17 points and five rebounds from Kadi Sissoko, 12 points, five rebounds and six assists from Jasmine Powell.
Afterward Powell said that without Hubbard, the whole team had to pick up the slack. Then she admitted: "Sara did most of it, by carrying us today. So, yeah.''
Yeah. After a 2-7 start to the season and a 1-6 start in Big Ten Conference play, the Gophers — who won their first conference home game — have now won three straight. And if what seemed like a safe lead late evaporated a bit because of a couple Scalia turnovers? Coach Lindsay Whalen said it's better to learn from a win than the other option.
"And this is a really good win,'' she said about beating Purdue (6-7, 3-6).
Purdue got 20 points from Brooke Moore and 17 from Madison Layden.
But back to Scalia. She was slowed by a stress reaction in her leg that kept her out of practice and the team's first two games this season. In an overtime win at Wisconsin Jan. 3 she took a hit setting a pick, separating her right — shooting — shoulder.
She has missed just one game since then. But it hasn't been until recently that her conditioning and health have come back.
"It's all from the work I've been putting in since I've been back,'' she said. "I am finally getting my rhythm back.''
The Gophers were up 10 mid-third quarter, but Purdue pulled within two entering the fourth. Fatou Diagne's two free throws with 6:52 left tied the game.
And then: Powell fed Scalia for a three. After a stop, Sissoko scored, was fouled and completed the three-point play.
With 2:30 left Scalia hit another three. At 1:22 she hit her sixth of the night to put the Gophers up nine. "I was feeling hot,'' she said. "I didn't hesitate. I knew it was going in when I let it go.''
Over her past two games Scalia has scored 51 points and made 11 of 22 three-pointers. But it wasn't just three-pointers Thursday. She drove and scored, rebounded and scored. She got to the line, making all four free throws. She had four rebounds and an assist.
Kind of the whole package.
"She's healthy,'' Whalen said. "She's been able to practice, which is something that, for a lot of the fall, she wasn't able to do. She is shooting the ball great. I liked how she attacked the paint, got to the line. A couple nice runners, some nice finishes. She's been playing great, no question.''