In a shootout between Minnesota’s Carlie Wagner and Penn State’s Teniya Page, it was Wagner who pushed Minnesota to a 70-64 win and onto the next round of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Wagner scored 26 points and brought in 10 rebounds. Recent struggles shooting the ball didn’t stop her from producing when the Gophers needed her to.
“I knew it was coming because I knew eventually my shot would come back,” Wagner said. “I knew that I couldn’t just stop shooting.”
Their leading scorer’s performance led the charge, but it was a team effort.
Minnesota’s bench contributed 22 points and contributed greatly on the defensive side.
“It’s amazing cause it was a tight game, and coach always says be ready when your number is called,” Wagner said. “We got quality minutes from our bench tonight. I thought they were a huge part of this win.”
Bryanna Fernstrom led the Gophers bench with eight points. She also blocked three shots and grabbed four rebounds.
The junior center felt like she had an advantage over the opposing centers.
“That was kind of our thing going into the game was going to the five man a lot,” Fernstrom said. “I just wanted to be an offensive threat tonight. The blocks just kind of happened.”
Page erupted for 35 points shooting 50 percent from the field. She consistently broke down Minnesota’s defense to get to the basket.
Penn State’s guard often had to shoot over two Minnesota defenders, but that didn’t derail her from getting her team points.
“She’s a special player, and she hit some tough shots,” Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings said. “It’s hard to get beat by one player, and I thought we did a great job containing the rest of their team.”
With a strong start to the game, the Gophers looked like they were never losing the lead.
Multiple defensive stops early set the tone for Minnesota. Wagner said the message preparing for the tournament was to play at full intensity from the start.
“We had to come out flying at em and ready to go from the tip,” Wagner said.
Easy chances at the basket helped the Gophers build a solid lead.
Minnesota never trailed until there was about three and a half minutes left in the third.
The Nittany Lions brought themselves back putting pressure on the Gophers. It was a one-point game in the Gophers favor heading into the final quarter.
Fernstrom said Minnesota didn’t have the best mindset after losing big leads in previous games this season, but this time it was different.
“This game we knew we couldn’t do that because there is no next game if we do that,” Fernstrom said. “Coach was telling us to raise our intensity . . . having more intensity, more heart, and more passion than them, and I think that was the most important thing.”
The Gophers will play Maryland in the next round of the tournament at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.