Minnesota (5-9, 4-8 Big Ten) is back home Wednesday as it hosts Illinois (3-11, 1-10 B1G) at 6 p.m. in its annual Play4Kay Pink Game.
THE OPENING TIP-OFF
• Jasmine Powell leads the Gophers with a scoring average of 15.4 points per game this season. She had scored at least 11 points in each of the previous 15 games but that streak was snapped Sunday at Ohio State when she was held to five points. In addition to her scoring prowess, which ranks 18th in the Big Ten, Powell is second in the conference and 20th nationally with her 5.6 assists per game.
• Powell is one of only four players in the country to be averaging at least 15.4 points and 5.6 assists this season along with Iowa’s Caitlin Clark (25.9 points, 6.4 assists), UConn’s Paige Bueckers (20.4, 5.7) and Seton Hall’s Lauren Park-Lane (18.0, 5.7).
• After missing the first two games of the season, Sara Scalia averaged 8.0 points over her first three contests and was shooting 23.5 percent from the floor (8-34) and 20 percent on 3-pointers (4-20). However, she has averaged 17.0 points over her last eight contests while shooting 41.7 percent on field goals (45-108) and 38.9 percent on 3’s (28-72). She missed the Jan. 10 contest with Penn State but has scored at least 11 points in each of those eight games, including a career-high 30 against Purdue on Jan. 28. It was the first 30-point game by the Gophers since Dec. of 2018. Scalia has made two or more 3-pointers in each of the last eight outings, including four with at least four made and a career-best six vs. Purdue.
• In the season opener, Kadi Sissoko scored 24 points in her first game at Minnesota to tie a school record for points a Gophers debut (Kenisha Bell vs. VCU, 11/15/16). Sissoko has recorded two double-doubles this season and has been close to adding to that total in three other games with 8 points and 9 rebounds at Nebraska (1/19), 15 points and 8 boards at Penn State (1/25) and 13 points with 9 rebounds at Ohio State (2/7). Sissoko is the team’s top rebounder (6.9 per game), ranks fourth in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds per game (3.4) and is 16th in rebounding average.
• After scoring a season-high 24 points at Wisconsin (1/3), Gadiva Hubbard had her scoring average at a season-best 12.8 points per game. However, she scored only 14 points in her next three games while shooting 24.0 percent from the floor (6-25) and 5.9 percent on 3-pointers (1-17). She’s since broken out of that mini-slump, though, by scoring 18 points in each of her last two games and improving her shooting: 11-22 from the field (50.0 percent) and 7-17 (41.2) on 3’s. She has missed the last three contests due to injury, but her scoring average is back up to 11.5 per contest and she’s averaged 6.5 rebounds in her last two games after posting 3.1 over her first nine games.
• The Gophers are 2-6 at home this season with wins over Eastern Illinois and Purdue. Like she is for the season, Powell is the team’s top scorer at Williams Arena with 17.0 points per game. Also averaging double figures for Minnesota at home are Scalia (15.6) and Sissoko (11.0). Klarke Sconiers is the team’s top rebounder in Minneapolis with 6.8 boards per contest.
• Minnesota and Illinois meet for the 68th time on Wednesday. The Gophers trail in the all-time series 38-29, but have won four of the past six meetings.
• In Minneapolis, the Gophers lead the all-time series 18-13, and they’ve won three of the last four against the Illini in Williams Arena.
• Illinois has one Minnesotan on its roster in sophomore Solape Amusan from Woodbury and Woodbury HS.
• The Illini are 3-11 on the season and 1-10 in Big Ten play. They snapped a 10-game losing streak Sunday with a 54-49 win over Purdue.
• Jeanae Terry leads the Illini in both scoring rebounding at 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She is joined in double figures along with Jada Peebles (10.6) and Kennedi Myles (10.1).
• Peebles ranks fourth in the Big Ten in minutes played per game (34.54), while Terry is fifth in the league in rebound average and steals (29).
WHALEN TALKS ABOUT ILLINI
LAST SEASON AGAINST THE ILLINI
• Despite four players in double figures, Minnesota was unable to complete a late comeback in a 74-71 loss last season at Illinois.
• Sara Scalia and Jasmine Powell were the top scorers for Minnesota, while Jasmine Brunson and Gadiva Hubbard also reached double figures.
• Scalia busted out for 16 points thanks to three 3-pointers and added seven rebounds, while Powell scored 15. Brunson contributed with 14 points, and Hubbard’s 12 points were aided by a game-high five assists.
• The Illini had their biggest lead of the game at 68-56 with 4:28 to play but the Gophers wouldn’t go down without a fight.
• Scalia made a three and Brunson followed with a jumper to cut the lead to seven with 3:20 to go. After a pair of made free throws for Illinois’ Petra Holesínská, who had a game-high 28 points, Hubbard got it to within six on a 3-pointer.
• After Holesínská and Powell traded more free throws, Brunson hit a 3-pointer in the corner, stole the ball on the ensuing possession and fed Powell for a layup to get Minnesota within one at 72-71 with 1:11 to play.
• Unfortunately, the inbounds pass on the Gophers’ next possession was stolen and a pair of free throws pushed the Illini lead back to three at 74-71 with 11 seconds to go. Minnesota had a chance to tie it up but Powell’s 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the rim.
LAST TIME IN MINNEAPOLIS
• Minnesota saw a 10-game home win streak against the Illini come to an end with a 66-62 loss to Illinois on Jan. 9, 2019.
• Three Golden Gophers scored in double figures, led by 18 points from Annalese Lamke. All 18 came in the first half, as she added eight rebounds and three assists.
• Jasmine Brunson scored 17 points, including 12 in the third quarter alone, while Kenisha Bell logged a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
• Down 19-17 less than two minutes into the second quarter, the Gophers took control for the time being with a 16-0 run over nearly six minutes of action to pull ahead 33-19. They led 35-21 at halftime.
• Minnesota’s biggest lead came early in the third quarter when a 3-pointer from Brunson put the Gophers ahead 44-27 with 7:38 remaining. Illinois quickly countered though, and went on a 12-0 run.
• Bell hit a jumper to put Minnesota on top 55-43 with 8:37 to play in the game, but Illinois scored the next nine points to make it a 55-52 game.
• A 3-pointer from Destiny Pitts seemed to take momentum away from the Illini as Minnesota led 60-55 with just over four minutes to play, but Illinois used an 11-2 run to close out the game.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)