The Gophers women’s basketball team strengthened both its position in the Big Ten and its case for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament by knocking off No. 23 Michigan 93-87 Wednesday night before an announced 2,415 at Williams Arena.
Gadiva Hubbard scored two timely baskets in the final three minutes to give Minnesota the lead, and Kenisha Bell made three free throws in the final 30 seconds to ice the Gophers’ 20th victory of the season. The program reached the milestone for the 13th time, including three times in four seasons under coach Marlene Stollings.
The Wolverines led by seven points in the final minute of the third quarter before Carlie Wagner closed the period by making a three-pointer. The senior hit another one to start the fourth and put the Gophers in front 78-75. The teams traded the lead several times before Hubbard’s steal and driving layup put the home team in front 84-83 with 2 minutes, 50 seconds to go.
“I was proud of how they battled,” Stollings said. “Michigan is a good team. When we needed our defense to be at its best it was rock solid. [In the fourth quarter] we held them to 14 points, we rebounded and made great decisions offensively.”
The Gophers (20-6, 9-4 Big Ten) improved to 12-1 at Williams Arena. They are a game ahead of the Wolverines (20-8, 9-6) in the race for fourth place and only one game behind Nebraska and Ohio State, tied for second.
The top four teams get a double bye in the conference tournament.
Wagner finished with six three-pointers on her way to 26 points. Hubbard contributed 17 points and Bell had 16. Senior post player Jessie Edwards came off the bench to score 13 and Destiny Pitts added 10. The 93 points were the most Michigan has allowed this season and 32 more than the Wolverines’ average of 61 points allowed per game.
“One of our plans was to challenge them with our foot speed because we felt our guards had superior foot speed,” Stollings said. “We wanted to challenge them on drives and either get a layup or make the next pass.”
The Gophers trailed by as many as five points early on, but closed the first quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 20-19 lead. Minnesota made just four baskets in the quarter, but made up for it by converting on 11 of 15 free throws.
The shots started to fall in the second quarter. Pitts, named Big Ten freshman of the week for the sixth time this season Monday, knocked down a three-pointer to tie the score at 26-26. The shot sparked a 22-9 run that put the Gophers in front 45-35 with just over two minutes to go before halftime. Wagner made two three-pointers during the run, and Bell twice drove the length of the court for layups.
Michigan responded with an 18-0 run and regained the lead less than a minute into the second half. Eight consecutive points by Katelynn Flaherty put the Wolverines in front 51-45. Flaherty scored a team-high 26 points.
“We were relentless. We’ve got a lot of experienced players on the team who faced a tough schedule last year,” Stollings said. “They know they have to stay in the moment. They jumped on us a bit, but we never wavered.”
The Gophers continue their four-game homestand Sunday when they play conference-leading and 10th-ranked Maryland.
“We love to have people at our house down the stretch,” Wagner said. “We’re excited to have Maryland here.”