Gophers Race Past Green Bay, Advance To Second Round 18 Mar 18

EUGENE, Ore. — The No. 10 Minnesota women’s basketball team outscored No. 7 Green Bay, 57-35, in the second half en route to an 89-77 win over the Phoenix (29-4) Friday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Eugene, Ore.

The Golden Gophers (24-8) advance to Sunday’s second round against No. 2 Oregon, which defeated No. 15 Seattle Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. CT

In a matchup between Minnesota’s offense, which entered the game ranked third in the country at 85.2 points per game, against Green Bay’s top-ranked scoring defense (46.1 ppg), it was the Gophers who prevailed. The 89 points were the most surrendered by the Phoenix since also allowing 89 to Connecticut on Nov. 30, 2014.

Minnesota was led Friday by junior Kenisha Bell, who scored 24 of her game-high 26 points in the second half. After just two points in the first half, she scored 11 points in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth. She did most of her damage at the free throw line, setting program tournament game records for free throws made (14) and attempted (17). She added five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Freshman Destiny Pitts scored 20 points in her NCAA Tournament debut, going 5-of-7 at the 3-point line to tie a Minnesota tournament record for 3-pointers made. Reaching 20 points for the eighth time this year, she also added eight rebounds.

Sophomore Gadiva Hubbard (16), senior Carlie Wagner (15) and senior Jessie Edwards (12) also reached double figures. Edwards was also the team’s leading rebounder, pulling down a game-high nine boards.

As a team, the Gophers made 10 3-pointers on 18 attempts. Both of those numbers are Gopher records for the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the team maximized its opportunities at the free throw line, making 25 of 29 attempts. The team’s 89 points brought its season total to 2,730, tying the 1980-81 team for the most in program history.

The first quarter belonged to Hubbard and Pitts, who combined for 17 of the Gophers’ 22 points in the opening frame. Hubbard was responsible for the team’s first eight points of the game, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of free throws. Pitts, meanwhile, knocked down three 3-pointers in her first NCAA Tournament action to help put Minnesota up 22-17 after the first 10 minutes.

A 3-pointer from Wagner put the Golden Gophers ahead 27-25 less than three minutes into the second quarter, but the Phoenix responded with an 8-0 run over the next minute and a half. It was part of a quarter that saw the Phoenix outscore the Gophers 25-10 and take a 42-32 lead into the locker room.

Green Bay extended its lead to as much as 13 during the third quarter, but a late run for the Gophers closed the gap. Down 62-50 with 2:23 to play in the stanza, Bell hit a jumper and got an old-fashioned 3-point play, while Wagner added a pair of free throws of her own to close a 7-0 run.

The fourth quarter was all Minnesota as that 7-0 run grew into a 19-4 run to turn a 12-point deficit into a three-point lead. Bell had nine points during the stretch, while Hubbard added four with a pair of steals.

After the run, Green Bay tied it up at 69-69 and briefly took the lead at 72-71, but that would be the last time it was in front as Pitts answered the Phoenix’s go-ahead 3-pointer with one of her own. Green Bay got within one at 78-77 with 3:22 to play, but Minnesota closed out the game on an 11-0 run. In all, Minnesota outscored Green Bay, 30-13, in the final frame.