Minnesota’s been on a roll for the start of the 2017-18 season and the team didn’t stop rolling through the weekend.
The Gophers (7-0) won the Lady Rebel Round-Up tournament in Las Vegas after beating Wake Forest 93-81 Saturday and UNLV 79-72 Sunday. Freshman Destiny Pitts was named MVP of the tournament after totaling 22 points and nine rebounds against UNLV. Another big performance came from Gadiva Hubbard, who made the All-Tournament team roster along with Pitts.
“This shows how resilient we are and shows the hard work we put in the offseason,” Pitts said.
The Gophers held Wake Forest to 41.8 percent shooting from the field, and 38.5 percent from three, with Minnesota scoring 28 fast break points off of 14 turnovers. While the defense was on full display,
Minnesota maintained another part of its identity — rebounds. The Gophers had three more boards than Wake Forest.
“Two things that went right that were keys to our game plan were rebounding the ball, we out-rebounded them,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “We knew rebounding was going to be crucial. And then our transition offense. One of the keys to the game was getting out in transition and try and get buckets.”
With a quick turnaround, the team only had one day to prepare. However, with a group of veterans behind the wheel, the Gophers were confident that they could get it done against UNLV.
“This just shows what we can do as a team when we work together,” Hubbard said.
In the second game against UNLV, Pitts notched a career-high 6 three-pointers for her 22 points, as Hubbard helped with 3 three-pointers of her own and 17 points.
“It was exciting,” Pitts said. “It was kind of scrappy, but it was very exciting.”
The game was scrappy, as Pitts said, with UNLV shooting a total of 33 free throws, and making 24 of them. Minnesota shot 38.9 percent from the field versus UNLV’s 35 percent. However, the Gophers out-rebounded their opponent by the count of 46-43, showing that winning is all about the small details.
“This was a team win,” Hubbard said. “We were crashing the boards and that was another big thing for this game. We had to have a defensive presence.”
Carlie Wagner finished with 16 points against UNLV, the same total she finished with against Wake Forest. That moves Wagner up to seventh place on Minnesota’s all-time scoring list with 1,719 career points, passing Molly Tadich. Bell was another notable player, adding 11 points of her own in the gritty win.
For the Gophers, this is their first Thanksgiving tournament win in nine years, as they seem more determined than ever to make a statement to the rest of the field.
“We’re playing with a chip on our shoulders from last year,” Bell said. “We want to tell people that we’re a better team than last year.”