Chalk it up as another Gophers victory, but as has been the case recently, nothing came easily for the Minnesota women’s basketball team in a 75-64 win over Penn State on Wednesday night at Williams Arena.
The Gophers (17-4, 6-3 Big Ten) shot just 33.3 percent from the field in the first half — and only 37.7 overall — and trailed by as many as 12 points with 12 minutes, 27 seconds left.
But a quick 13-0 run and some stout defense down the stretch allowed the resilient Gophers to claw their way back for the victory, ending their two-game losing streak.
“Our team has the ability to be pretty explosive offensively,” Gopher coach Marlene Stollings said of the late charge. “The same looks were there and they just started falling,”
And the offense came from every spot on the court, as four Gophers scored in double figures, led by Shae Kelley’s 18 points.
Sophomore center Amanda Zahui B. recorded her second career triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks.
Shayne Mullaney handed out 12 assists, the fifth time in six games the Gophers point guard has had 10 or more.
“Overall, [it was a] solid balance of scoring for us tonight,” Stollings said.
And it was Mullaney’s three-pointer with less than 12 minutes to play that helped ignite the Gopher rally.
Penn State (5-16, 2-8) started the second half on a 20-3 run. Down 12, the Gophers were scrambling, unable to stop the Lady Lions on one end and unable to get any shots to fall on the other.
Then came Mullaney’s three — her only basket of the game and the first of 13 consecutive Gopher points. Mikayla Bailey capped the rally with a another three that allowed Minnesota to retake the lead 50-49 with 8:40 left.
From there, the Gophers’ defense took over. Zahui had nine blocks in the second half, five in the final 10 minutes alone, and Minnesota eventually pulled away.
“It’s about execution,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “And I thought Minnesota executed very well in the second half.”
Lindsey Spann and Peyton Whitted led Penn State with 16 points apiece, and 6-6 junior Candice Agee finished with 12.
Penn State’s length — the team also has 6-5 Tori Waldner in its rotation — gave Minnesota trouble most of the night. And the Lady Lions’ streaky shooting allowed them to build multiple leads.
More than anything, though, the Gophers were simply beating themselves through the game’s first 28 minutes.
“Obviously, in the first half we struggled a little bit and had to keep fighting,” Stollings said. “We were getting tremendous looks.”