The bottom line, Lindsay Whalen insisted was just that.
The Gophers women's basketball team needed a win, and they got a win. By 83-73, at home at Williams Arena on Wednesday, against an Illinois team with one Big Ten Conference victory.
All of that is true.
This was a much-needed win. But it ended up not being quite as impressive as it might have been. Minnesota got off to its best start this season with a 24-8 first quarter.
Up 18 at the half, the Gophers opened the third quarter on a 14-3 run, going up 57-28 when Sara Scalia pulled up for a three-pointer on the break with 6:38 left in the third quarter.
The rest of the game? The Gophers (6-9, 5-8 Big Ten) were outscored 45-26, with the Illini pulling within seven points in the final minute.
So, a mixed bag. The Gophers have been struggling to start halves off well, which they did Wednesday. But Illinois' full-court pressure put the Gophers on their heels for long stretches in the second half.
"In the third, we got some really good looks early in the clock and they went,'' Whalen said. "Then they stopped going, Illinois got its press set and our defense wasn't as good as it was in the first half. But we got it back in the last two-three minutes. We have to continue to work, be better. But I'm focused on the fact we won.''
Scalia scored all 20 of her points in the second half, on 6-for-11 shooting, after going 0-for-6 in the first half. She had three three-pointers in that 14-3 start to the second half.
Jasmine Powell, questionable to play with a left ankle injury, scored 17 points with seven assists and six rebounds. Kadi Sissoko had 16 points and six rebounds.
But this was a game with distinctly different halves. The Illini (shot 27.3% in the first half while being outrebounded 25-14, but that jumped to 18-for-38 shooting in the second half, during which the Illinois had a 25-11 edge on the boards and converted 13 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points.
"We struggled early on [in the second half] with their press,'' Scalia said. "We were just turning the ball over. Even
"I think this is definitely a good learning game for us. We can live with it because, obviously, we won. We'll watch film, especially the second half, and see what we can get better at.''
Jada Peebles scored a game-high 21 points for Illinois (3-12, 1-11), including a second-chance three with 39 seconds left that drew Illinois within 80-73.
But Scalia's basket after breaking the press nine seconds later essentially iced the game.
"We let our foot off the gas,'' Powell said. "We didn't sell out on rebounding. That's what hurt us, second-chance points. We fouled them a lot, and we weren't converting, taking quick shots on the offensive side. We didn't play with a lot of poise down the stretch. That's something we need to work on.''
The Gophers ended a two-game losing streak and now have won four of the past six.
"Ultimately we won,'' Whalen said. "That's what matters.''