No. 18/20 (AP/Coaches) Minnesota (12-3, 1-3 B1G) plays host to No. 17/17 Iowa (11-4, 2-2) Monday night at 6 p.m. CT.
The game will be the first of two for the Gophers this year that will air on ESPN2 (also 1/20 at Nebraska).
• Maroon Mayhem: fans are encouraged to wear maroon and help fill Williams Arena for the nationally televised game on ESPN2
THE OPENING TIP-OFF
• After playing at No. 23 Michigan State on Wednesday, Monday night will be the second straight AP Top-25 matchup for Minnesota. It’s the first time since Feb. of 2006, when they played in three straight, that the Gophers will play in consecutive Top-25 matchups. Minnesota is 16-28 all-time in Top-25 games and 4-11 when the higher ranked team. There have been 32 previous instances where either Minnesota or Iowa was ranked when they played each other, but Monday will be the first time that both teams are ranked when they meet.
• Minnesota enters Monday’s game ranked No. 18 in the AP Poll. The Gophers are 15-3 all-time as the No. 18 team. Minnesota is also No. 20 in the most recent Coaches Poll, the fifth straight week is has appeared in the poll.
• The Golden Gophers are 1-1 this season in Top-25 matchups. While ranked 18th, they lost at No. 23 Michigan State on Wednesday. Prior to that on Nov. 29, the then-20th-ranked Gophers topped then-No. 12 Syracuse, 72-68, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The win over the Orange snapped a streak of five straight losses in Top-25 matchups for Minnesota.
• The Gophers have won 10 of their 11 home games this season and 16 of their past 18 contests at Williams Arena dating to last season. Among those 16 victories are four Top-25 wins. Minnesota won its first 10 home games this season, which tied for the sixth longest home win streak in program history. All-time, Minnesota boasts a .697 winning percentage at The Barn (348-151).
• Few teams in the country get to the free throw line more than Minnesota. Through Saturday’s games, the Golden Gophers ranked fourth in the NCAA behind only Arkansas State (425), Notre Dame (381) and Loyola Marymount (381) with 380 attempts, while their 260 makes rank sixth nationally. Kenisha Bell has been the most prolific free throw shooter for Minnesota, ranking sixth nationally in attempts with 118 and 13th with 81 makes. Additionally, Annalese Lamke ranks eighth in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (78.1) and 12th in free throws made (50), while Destiny Pitts is 10th in the conference in free throw percentage (77.2).
SERIES HISTORY WITH IOWA
• Renewing its most-played rivalry, Minnesota will host Iowa Monday in the 78th meeting between the schools. The Gophers trail in the all-time series 50-27, but won two of three meetings last season. In fact, the teams have alternated wins in each of the last seven contests as each have protected home court three times, while Minnesota also won at the B1G Tournament last season.
• Like with the overall series, Minnesota has faced Iowa at home more than any other team and trails by one game in the series in Minneapolis, 18-17. The Gophers have won three straight over the Hawkeyes at Williams Arena, though, not losing at home in the series since Jan. 19, 2014.
• Iowa has one Minnesotan on its roster: Monika Czinano from Watertown and Watertown-Mayer High School.
• In her playing career head coach Lindsay Whalen was 4-2 vs. Iowa (DNP in 2/19/04 game), averaging 24.3 points, 6.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game and shooting 60 percent from the floor, 45 percent on 3-pointers and 78.4 percent from the free-throw line.
LAST SEASON VS. IOWA
• Minnesota and Iowa met three times last season with the Gophers winning in Minneapolis and at the Big Ten Tournament, while Iowa held serve at home in Iowa City. All three games were decided by eight points or less
• Five different players scored in double figures as Minnesota upset No. 20/20 Iowa with a 77-72 victory in Minneapolis on Jan. 21.
• Kenisha Bell led the way with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Carlie Wagner added 15 points, including 11 in the second half, and Destiny Pitts finished with 11 points. In the frontcourt, Taiye Bello scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 23 minutes and Bryanna Fernstrom contributed 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
• The Gophers led 66-58 with 6:24 to go, but Iowa quickly countered with a 9-0 over three minutes to lead 67-66 with 2:53 to play. Bell snapped the streak with a pair of free throws, giving Minnesota the lead back for good. The Gophers were 9-of-10 at the line in the fourth and 15-of-19 for the game.
• The teams met two weeks later in Iowa City on Feb. 4, but Minnesota fell 92-84.
• Wagner posted 20 points to become the fifth player in Minnesota basketball history to reach 2,000 career points. Minnesota’s leading scorer was Bell, who poured in a career-high 35 points. She was 13-of-27 from the field and 8-of-13 at the free throw line.
• Iowa opened the first and second quarters on 13-2 runs, while its biggest lead came at 50-33 with 8:36 left in the third quarter. The Gophers slowly worked their way back and a 7-0 run had the Gophers within 77-70 with 2:37 remaining in the game. After the Hawkeyes extended the lead to 83-70, Minnesota embarked on a 12-3 run over the next 1:08 to trail by just four with 32 seconds to play. Unfortunately that would be the closest the Gophers would get the rest of the way.
• In the rubber match in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota got 27 points from Wagner and 26 points and nine assists from Bell to advance to the semis for the second time in team history with a 90-89 win on March 2.
• Also reaching double figures were Gadiva Hubbard, who had 15 points and five steals, and Pitts, who had 14 points, which all came in the second half. Iowa was led by Megan Gustafson, who scored a tournament record 48 points and also had 15 rebounds.
• Trailing by two in the fourth quarter, Pitts nailed a 3-pointer to put the Gophers ahead 88-87 with 1:15 to play. A pair of free throws by Hubbard pushed the lead to three, though Iowa cut it to two with a layup with 35 seconds remaining. The Hawkeyes had one final chance but a desperation 3-point attempt fell short and wide thanks to pressuring defense from the Gophers.
RECAPPING THE GAME AT MICHIGAN STATE
• In a matchup of Top-25 teams, No. 18/20 Minnesota fell at No. 23/24 Michigan State Wednesday, 86-68.
• Kenisha Bell led three Gophers in double figures with a team-best 20 points and game-high eight rebounds. Destiny Pitts scored 15 points with seven rebounds, while Jasmine Brunson added 11 points.
• Minnesota scored the final seven points of the opening quarter to trail 19-16, while a pair of free throws by Bell extended the run to 9-0 to open the second quarter and cut the lead to one. However, Michigan State countered with a 12-3 run of its own and outscored the Gophers 24-13 in the frame to lead 43-29 at halftime.
• In the second half, Minnesota busted out for 27 points in the third quarter, the third highest point total in any quarter this season. However, the Spartans scored 24 points of their own in the same frame to maintain a 67-56 advantage heading into the fourth. Minnesota was unable to get closer than that 11-point margin over the rest of the game.
• Minnesota opened the season by winning its first 12 games. The only better undefeated start in team history came in 2003-04 (15-0), while the Gophers also began the 2002-03 season 12-0. Those were head coach Lindsay Whalen’s senior and junior seasons, respectively. The 12-game win streak tied for the third longest in program history and was the longest since the team’s program-record 15-game streak that opened the 2003-04 season.
• With the 12-0 start, Whalen tied her former coach, Pam Borton (2002-03), for the best undefeated start by a coach in their first year at a Big Ten school since the incorporation of women’s athletics in the conference in 1982-83. The only coach at a Big Ten school with more wins in his or her first year there was Ohio State’s Debbie Wilson, who started 14-0 in 1972-73.
• Minnesota’s 12-1 record was also the fourth best one-loss start in team history, while the 12-2 record tied for the fifth best two-loss start in program annals.
TURNING UP THE DEFENSE
• Through Saturday, the Golden Gophers ranked third in the Big Ten and 46th in the country (out of 349) in scoring defense by allowing 57.9 points per game. For comparison, last season Minnesota finished the year ranked 335th and allowed 74.8 points per game.
• Additionally, the Gophers are 19th in the country in rebounds per game (43.80), 20th in rebound margin (8.7), and 32nd in fouls commited per game (14.6).
• Advanced metrics, via HerHoopStats.com, also show how strong the Gopher defense has been. Minnesota is 18th in the nation in opponent points per scoring attempt (shots+FT trips) at 0.86, 19th in opponent points per play (shots+/FT trips+turnover) at 0.68, 25th in opponent field goal percentage on two-pointers (38.3), 22nd in opponent points per 100 possessions (80.6) and 34th in opponent effective FG% (accounts for the value of 3-point shots: (FG + 0.5*3P) / FGA)) at 40.6%.
BELLO DOMINATING THE GLASS
• Through Saturday, Taiye Bello was fourth in the country in offensive rebounds per game (5) and eighth in total rebounds (184) and rebounds per game (12.3). She was also 22nd nationally in defensive rebounds per game (7) and 41st in double-doubles (6).
• Bello is the only player in the country to have four games this year with at least 18 rebounds.
• The junior is also currently the most improved rebounder in the Big Ten, upping her rebounds per game total from 6.3 last year to 12.3 this year. The +6.0 difference has her tops in the B1G, ahead of teammate Annalese Lamke who has gone from 0.7 to 6.0 per game (+5.3).
• She posted double-doubles in the first three games this season. She was the first Minnesota player to have three straight double-doubles since Amanda Zahui B. ended the 2014-15 season with four in a row. Bello has 10 in her career, with Minnesota going 10-0 in those games.
• Though she didn’t have a double-double against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, she did have a career-high 19 rebounds, which were the most by a Gopher since Zahui B. had 22 against DePaul in the NCAA Tournament on March 20, 2015.
• Arguably Bello’s best performance came against No. 12 Syracuse when she went for a career-high 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, including 10 offensive.
• She followed that with 18 rebounds against Air Force, 10 of which came in the first quarter.
BELL FINISHING STRONG IN SENIOR SEASON
• Senior Kenisha Bell leads the Gophers in several categories, including points per game (18.5), assists per game (4.3) and steals per game (2.33).
• Nationally, Bell is one of the best at getting to the free throw line, ranking sixth in attempts (118) and 13th in makes (73).
• She leads the Big Ten in steals (35), steals per game and free throw attempts, is second in field goals attempted (237), and ranks third in the conference in made free throws and scoring average.
BRUNSON STEPPING UP IN CONFERENCE PLAY
• Junior Jasmine Brunson has elevated her game since conference play started.
• Her scoring average has gone up from 7.7 points per game in non-conference action to 11.0 in B1G play, while her shooting percentages have all increased: field goal percentage from .357 to .515, 3-point percentage from .286 to .625 and free throw percentage from .660 to .714.
(content and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)