The University of Minnesota women’s basketball team (4-1) closes out the longest season-opening homestand in program history Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against Bryant (1-4). The first night game of the season, which wraps up a stretch of six straight contests at Williams Arena.
LINDSAY PREVIEWS GAME; TALKS FOOTBALL
MNN Sports Director Mike Grimm chatted with Gopher head coach Lindsay Whalen prior to her team’s practice yesterday and spoke about a number of things, including this Saturday’s College GameDay visit for football:
THE OPENING TIP-OFF
• Minnesota is facing Bryant for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs are one of five teams the Golden Gophers are playing for the first time ever this season. Already, they’ve beaten Montana State and lost to Missouri State, while George Washington (12/10) and UC Davis (12/15) are still to come on the schedule.
• Minnesota is receiving votes in both the latest AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Gophers were ranked No. 23 to start the year in the AP Preseason Poll. It was the fifth time in program history they had been ranked in the AP Preseason Poll and the first since they were No. 16 in 2005-06.
• Senior Taiye Bello has posted double-doubles in three of the team’s five games this year. She had 11 points and a season-high 14 rebounds against Montana State Sunday after going for for 14 points and 10 rebounds against Vermont on Nov. 10 and 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks Nov. 14 vs. Milwaukee. She also nearly had one against No. 19 Arizona State on Nov. 17 when she had 11 rebounds with nine points. Her three double-doubles this year lead the Big Ten and are tied for ninth in the nation. In her career, Bello has 18 double-doubles to rank ninth in Gophers history, and the Gophers are 16-2 in those games.
• Though only five games have been played, the Minnesota offense has picked up its scoring in year two under head coach Lindsay Whalen. The Gophers are averaging 77.4 points per game this year, over seven points better than the 70.0 points they were averaging at this same stage a season ago. Two areas where Minnesota has already seen improvement are from 3-point range and at the free-throw line. The Gophers’ field goal percentage on 3-pointers is 53 points better than last year (.352 vs. .299) even though they have 38 more attempts this year, and they are shooting 143 points better on free throws (.785 vs. .642).
• On an individual level, Destiny Pitts is shooting 47.2 percent (17-36) on 3-pointers this year, after making just 26.1 percent (6-23) through five games a year ago. In addition, freshman Sara Scalia (40.0%) and redshirt junior Gadiva Hubbard (36.4%), who missed last year with an injury, have bolstered the 3-point shooting. Meanwhile, at the line, five Gophers have attempted at least 10 free throws this year and all are shooting better than 73 percent. Last year at this stage, of the five players with at least 10 attempts, only two were above 70 percent.
• Tuesday is International Night as we celebrate the international student athletes on the team: Masha Adashchyk (Belarus), Kadi Sissoko (France) and Barbora Tomancova (Czech Republic).
• Food Drive: Bring any non-perishable food item to be donated to families in need before the holiday season. Collection bins will be located in the University Ave. and Oak St. ticket lobbies.
• Tuesday marks the first ever meeting between Minnesota and Bryant.
• The Golden Gophers are 2-0 all-time against teams currently in the Northeast Conference with both games coming in Minneapolis. Minnesota has won those matchups by an average of over 26 points (73.0-46.5).
• The last meeting for Minnesota against an NEC team came on Dec. 9, 2012 when the Gophers beat Robert Morris, 82-60.
• Prior to that, the Gophers defeated Saint Francis (Pa.) in the opening round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, 64-33. Current Gophers assistant coach Kelly Curry had seven points, three rebounds and an assist in 19 minutes off the bench in the win.
• The Bulldogs opened the 2019-20 season with a win over Brown but have since lost four straight. Bryant and Minnesota have one common opponent so far this year: Vermont. The Gophers beat the Catamounts, 90-58, on Nov. 10, while the Bulldogs lost to them on Nov. 17, 71-66.
• Nicole Gallagher leads Bryant at 12.2 points per game, while Sydney Holloway is averaging a double-double with 11.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest.
LAST TIME OUT
• Trailing by as many as 12 points, Minnesota used a second-half rally to defeat Montana State Saturday, 71-60.
• Destiny Pitts led all scorers with a season-high 26 points, including 19 in the second half, and Taiye Bello registered her third double-double of the season with 11 points and a season-high 14 rebounds as the Gophers logged their biggest comeback win since overcoming a 13-point deficit in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament against Green Bay.
• Montana State led by three points at halftime, but opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run to lead 47-35. Minnesota chipped away and trailed 54-49 with 8:16 to go in the game before going on a 13-0 run to take a lead it would not relinquish.
• Jasmine Brunson converted a three-point play to cut the lead to two, and Jasmine Powell gave the Gophers their first lead since the 7:16 mark of the second quarter when she made a tough layup and followed with a free throw. Montana State then turned the ball over on three straight possession as Pitts turned those into five more points and a 60-54 Minnesota lead.
• Another layup from Powell extended the lead to eight with 2:08 to play and the Bobcats would not get closer than six points the rest of the way.
FRESHMEN POWELL, SCALIA MAKING INSTANT IMPACT
• Minnesota has five freshmen on its 2019-20 roster and some are already making significant contributions.
• Jasmine Powell has come off the bench in all five games but is third on the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game and has a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten. She’s also 21-of-25 (.840) at the free-throw line to lead the team in free throws made and attempted.
• She put up 19 points against Vermont on Nov. 10, the most by a non-starter at Minnesota since teammate Destiny Pitts had 20 on Nov. 16, 2017, and has scored in double figures in three of five games this year.
• Sara Scalia has started each of the last four contests and is second on the team in 3-point percentage (.400), third in field goal percentage (.387) and sixth in scoring average (7.4). In her first career start against Vermont on Nov. 10, she had nine points and seven rebounds.
GOPHERS WINNING TURNOVER BATTLE
• Minnesota is winning the turnover battle so far, forcing 111 turnovers while giving the ball away just 60 times through four games.
• Not only do the Gophers lead the Big Ten and rank 12th nationally with an average turnover margin of +10.20, they also lead in the league in fewest turnovers per game (12.0; 16th nationally) and turnovers forced per game (22.20; 33rd nationally).
• Against Milwaukee on Nov. 14, Minnesota forced the Panthers into 33 turnovers, which tied for the 10th most forced in program history. The Gophers then turned those 33 turnovers into 35 points.
• Converting turnovers into points has been a trend for the Gophers all season as they have turned 111 takeaways into 128 points this year, an average of 1.15 points for every turnover forced.
• In terms of taking care of the ball, against Vermont on Nov. 10 the Gophers only committed five turnovers, which tied for the third fewest in program history.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)