On Super Bowl Sunday, the Minnesota women’s basketball team welcomed No. 17 Rutgers to Williams Arena for an afternoon contest.
The Scarlet Knights came to Stadium Village at the top of the Big Ten with a 17-4 record. The Gophers managed to upset Rutgers 60-46 to put another game in the win column.
“I thought that it made us more hyped. We’ve been having some downfalls, and I thought that if we could play a good team, we could show people that we could stick with these good teams and have that breakthrough,” said senior Kenisha Bell. “Playing against people that are higher than us, we play with a chip on our shoulders every game from here on out.”
The Gophers lost last year's matchup against Rutgers in overtime 80-70, a game in which then-freshman Destiny Pitts played all 45 minutes and scored a team-high 22 points.
Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer — who was honored at the game for surpassing 1,000 career wins as coach this season — admitted that her team had seemed to be in a “doldrum,” whereas Minnesota was able to ignore the statistics and focus on the game.
“It was like we weren’t even there,” Stringer said. “We were just a step short all night long, and it seemed like we were much more interested in the Super Bowl. We should have stayed in the present. ... We acted like we couldn’t wait to get home, so we deserved to lose."
The game didn’t start out well for either team, and about two and a half minutes passed before anyone was able to score. Five minutes into the first quarter, the score was 6-4 in favor of Minnesota, and by the end of the first quarter the teams were tied at 10 points each.
Six minutes passed at the start of the second quarter before the Gophers scored their first point of the period. At halftime, the score was 23-17 in favor of Rutgers.
The Gophers came out stronger in the third quarter, thanks in part to a spark provided by junior Jasmine Brunson. A Brunson basket at the 2:14 mark tied the game at 31 points, and Taiye Bello pulled the Gophers ahead with a 3-point play at 1:48 of the quarter.
Soon after, another 3-pointer from Brunson put the Gophers ahead by six points.
Minnesota’s five starters would play for the entire second half of the game, and in the final half the Gophers kept the pressure on the Scarlet Knights. Although Rutgers was able to briefly get the deficit down, Minnesota ultimately prevailed.
“We’ve gone through our slump of losing, and I think we just wanted it more, and we needed it as a team. We’ll try to get on a roll now,” Bello said. “We’re resilient and I knew that we would win and we would keep fighting; I knew that we were hungry.”
“We’re really learning and finding out that there’s no [quitting], and that we’re going to keep going,” Whalen said.
On Wednesday, the Gophers have a game against the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, Indiana at 6:00 p.m.