When asked to summarize her halftime message Thursday night, Gophers women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen paused. So just what turned a timid team on its heels into one throwing punches? What had morphed a team seemingly lost on defense into a turnover-forcing machine?
“As far as what we said in the locker room,’’ Whalen started. Then she paused as two of her players — guards Jasmine Brunson and Jasmine Powell smiled on either side of her. ‘‘It was ….It was …. Very spirited.’’
OK then. The guess here is that spirited is a nicer synonym for something a bit more forceful. But, in a 67-61 victory over Nebraska at Williams Arena it worked. The Gophers fell behind by as many as 12 points in the first half, but ended the game on a 13-4 run while earning their first home win in the Big Ten this season.
Leading the way: the two-Jasmine backcourt.
Brunson, a senior, finished with 16 points, six assists and five steals. Powell, a freshman, finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Together, they combined to score 11 of the 13 points in that 13-4 run to end the game for the Gophers (13-8, 3-7 Big Ten). Taiye Bello had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Sara Scalia had 11 points.
Nebraska was led by Leigha Brown’s 15 points.
“It was spirited for sure,’’ Brunson said of halftime. “It was something we needed to hear. When she gets fired up, we feed off that. It was great to see that. … It was really good.’’
It was really something. The Huskers (15-6, 5-5) shot 50% in the first half, 38.7% with 13 of their season-high 22 turnovers in the second. They scored 20 points on the fast break in the first 20 minutes, zero in the second. The Gophers ended up scoring 22 points off turnovers, which is why they won despite shooting 36.9%.
The game really came down to two runs.
The first: The Huskers had used a 12-0 run to go up 12 late in the first half. But the Gophers countered by scoring the next 13.
The second: The Gophers were down three with 6:40 left. Then Brunson hit a jumper. Powell then drove the paint to put the Gophers up one. After a Nebraska miss, Brunson hit again and the Gophers were up three with 3:18 left. That lead grew to five on Powell’s free throws with 1:59 left. Brown scored at the other end. But then, with 1:17 left, Powell hit a three-pointer to put the Gophers up six.
Where does a freshman get that nerve? “It comes from my teammates,’’ Powell said. “And my coaches. Staying after practice to shoot. My teammates they know I put in the time for that shot. And Jaz passing me the ball? That’s confidence right there.’’
During that 13-4 end of the game run, the Gophers held Nebraska to 2-for-9 shooting with three turnovers.
Nice halftime speech.
“The adjustments were, in a few words, ‘Get Back!’ ” Whalen said. “But it’s one thing to say it, another thing to do it. They had unbelievable effort.’’