The Northwestern Wildcats (14-9, 7-5 Big Ten) braved the weather on a snowy Sunday to play the Minnesota women’s basketball team at home.
The Gophers (17-7, 6-7 Big Ten) recovered from a fourth quarter collapse to beat the Wildcats in overtime 73-64. It was the second time the teams met this season, after Minnesota beat Northwestern by a score of 61-54 just ten days ago.
“This team has an incredible resiliency, just how hard they compete. I know we’re never out of it, especially during these last two weeks,” said head coach Lindsay Whalen.
Although the Gophers blew their double-digit halftime lead, they didn’t give up. Senior Kenisha Bell, Minnesota's leading scorer in the game, tied the game at 58 with seven seconds left.
The game went to a five-minute overtime period. This fifth quarter made it clear for all that Minnesota was the better team. The Gophers went on a 9-0 run in the first three minutes and never looked back.
“Five minutes left, that’s us,” said junior Jasmine Brunson. “We always talk about five minutes games throughout the game, so a game within a game. When we hit overtime, especially on our home court, that’s our game.”
Before Bell's heroics in the waning seconds of the game, Northwestern mounted a comeback to take its first lead of the game in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. At one point, with less than a minute left, the Wildcats had a 58-54 lead.
In that fourth quarter, Northwestern outscored Minnesota 16-8 to tie it.
Three-pointers from Destiny Pitts and Bell helped put Minnesota up 13-6 in the first five minutes. On defense, the team used an effective half-court press, and soon their lead stretched to 19-8. Northwestern made a 7-0 push at the end of the first quarter to stay in the game.
Still, the Gophers' dominant performance continued. Bell’s experience shined, and Minnesota started to look like a very dangerous team.
Bell led her team to the victory with 24 points, five assists, five steals and 11 rebounds — all on 50 percent shooting. Pitts added 21 points, including seven free throws.
“I think what she did was really important, especially the rebounds. ... It kind of sets a tone,” Pitts said of Bell’s performance. “Her rebounding and her steals and the defense she was playing, she had a really good game overall.”
Four minutes into the second quarter, the Gophers led 29-18. Four minutes after that they led 36 to 22. The consistent first half play gave Minnesota a 37-24 lead into halftime.
Northwestern tried its best to get back into the game in the second half, an effort that dragged Minnesota into overtime. Halfway through the third quarter, the difference was down to seven points, and the Wildcats inched closer the rest of the way until Minnesota shut them down in the extra frame.
Now the Gophers will have a few days off before a rematch against the Purdue Boilermakers on Feb. 14.