The Gophers had to make up for some cold shooting early on in their first road game, and to do so, they relied on guard Kenisha Bell.
Minnesota beat Rhode Island 80-62 Monday in its first away game win of the season, moving the team to 2-0. Bell led the Gophers with 22 points. She also grabbed 10 rebounds and made eight assists, nearly tallying up a triple-double in the process.
While the team started off shooting only 32.4 percent in the first half, the Gophers found their stroke by the second half, shooting 45.9 percent. At the half, Minnesota was leading 34-28, and a big part of the team breaking away from Rhode Island could be traced back to Bell.
“I felt like I was getting to the basket and no one was really stopping me, so when I did attack, I was able to draw fouls,” Bell said. “It felt good. The more I got fouled, the more I wanted to push the ball.”
Bell shot a total of 18 free throws on the night, making 10 of them in an attack-mode mentality. While the team struggled to find their shot in the first half, there was one person who was impressed with how the veteran group managed to bounce back under Bell's guidance.
“I was really impressed how [Bell] played through some bad moments early in the game,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “In that moment last year, she would’ve not responded as strongly. So, the big difference I see in her is the maturity and how she stepped up and said, ‘We’re going to increase our intensity and we’re going to handle this situation.’”
Rebounding played a huge part in tipping the scale, with Minnesota out-rebounding Rhode Island 61 to 33. A big reason for such a lopsided comparison came in part thanks to freshman Destiny Pitts, who contributed with seven points and 15 rebounds in her first collegiate road game.
“We got the win so that’s the most important thing,” Pitts said. “We played really good defense throughout the game. My shot wasn’t really falling, but I found ways to be aggressive in other aspects of the game.”
Other notable scorers from Monday’s game included Carlie Wagner, who added 18 points off of 7-21 shooting. Jessie Edwards finished with 10 points on the night, while Jasmine Brunson chipped in nine of her own. Gadiva Hubbard added eight points to the mix. Though the team took awhile to find their shots, the theme of the game stayed the same: defense, which allowed the team to find their offensive rhythm later on.
“I thought our defense was absolutely consistent the entire game,” Stollings said. “They only averaged 15 points a quarter, and that’s outstanding.”
The Gophers will host VCU Nov. 16 at Williams Arena, a team that should be a good challenge for Minnesota at this stage in the year.
“This is a good test for us early in the season,” Stollings said. “We’re back at Williams Arena and we feel very confident there, so we’re just going to continue to let it fly.”