The Gophers, with a blend of new and returning talent, showed off what they were capable of in their season opener.
Minnesota beat Lehigh 107-73 to open the season at Williams Arena. Seven Minnesota players finished in double figures; Gadiva Hubbard and Carlie Wagner led the way with 22 points apiece. Wagner started the scoring for the Gophers with a three pointer to get the momentum moving on the team’s side.
“I was excited when it went in, I was like: 'Yes,'" Wagner said. “We struck first which was huge, and that’s what we want to emphasize this year — that we strike first, we are not going to get in a hole and have to make a comeback.”
Shots from behind the arc just kept coming for the Gophers. The team finished 52 percent from three, and shot 51.2 percent overall from the field. A big reason behind that total came because of Hubbard, who shot six for seven from three point land.
“My team was just finding me,” Hubbard said. “I mean, they obviously didn’t have to pass me the ball and there was other people obviously open, but they found me and I was just comfortable with my shot.
Freshmen Destiny Pitts and Paloma Gonzalez, a few of the team’s new faces on a team made up of veterans, each added 12 points in their collegiate debuts. Kenisha Bell finished the night with 12 points and eight assists. While the team showed off its balanced scoring, the defensive mindset it wanted to implement was on full display. The Gophers forced Lehigh to commit 23 turnovers and shoot 39.7 percent from the field.
“I am very pleased with the balance of our scoring, I thought we shared the ball extremely well, and very pleased with the fact we took care of the ball — it’s a big point of emphasis for us,” said head coach Marlene Stollings. “Our defensive effort, playing man-to-man for forty minutes was something that we will build upon, but certainly a good start for us and a good showing for us defensively.”
The Gophers will return to action Nov. 13, where they’ll face Rhode Island. Last year, the team was tested, and this year, they’re trying to put it all together.
“Our returners are playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, I would say, because they were tested and they were so young,” Stollings said.