Minnesota women’s basketball (6-9, 5-8 Big Ten) rode a dominant first half to an 83-73 victory over Illinois (3-12, 1-11 B1G) Wednesday night at Williams Arena.
Sophomore Sara Scalia led the way in scoring with a team-high 20 points, all of which games in the second half. After going 0-6 from the floor and 0-4 from 3-point range through the first and second quarters, Scalia was 6-11 on field goals, including 3-5 on 3-pointers, and 5-6 on free throws in the second half.
For Scalia, who also had five rebounds, it was the sixth 20-point game of her career, and the Gophers are 6-0 all-time when she reaches that mark.
Also in double figures were fellow sophomores Jasmine Powell (17) and Kadi Sissoko (16). Each player had six rebounds to tie for the team lead, while Powell added seven assists and Sissoko had three.
Minnesota dominated the first quarter, outscoring the Illini, 24-8. It was the fewest points allowed by the Gophers in any quarter this season and the 16-point edge in the quarter matched the fourth quarter at Penn State for the largest this season.
Minnesota scored the first nine points of the contest and was up 18-5 with just under four minutes remaining in the opening period. The Gophers were 9-17 shooting, while the Illini were just 3-17. Powell matched Illinois’ point total on her own with eight points, while Sissoko had seven of her own.
Head coach Lindsay Whalen liked the team’s fast start:
The second quarter was more of the same as the Gophers opened the frame on 14-4 spurt with a 3-pointer from Katie Borowicz to make it 38-12 with 6:54 to play in the first half. Illinois worked its way back into the contest with a 13-2 run late in the quarter, but a basket and free throw by Sissoko in the final seconds put Minnesota up 43-25 at halftime.
For Minnesota, the 18-point edge was its largest halftime lead of the season, while Illinois had the lowest point total for any opponent in a half this year. Sissoko (12) and Powell (10) were each in double figures by halftime.
Minnesota kept up its hot shooting in the third quarter as Scalia got going. After the teams traded baskets to open the second half, Scalia hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Powell added one of her own. Scalia then made a third straight triple and the lead was Minnesota’s largest of the entire season at 57-28 with 6:38 to play in the third.
Illinois shaved 11 points off that score, though, and the lead was 64-46 for Minnesota entering the fourth. The Illini chipped away in the final frame and found themselves within single digits with 2:21 remaining after a 9-0 run, their first time being within fewer than 10 points since the 4:42 mark of the first quarter.
The Illini outscored Minnesota 27-19 in the final stanza but would not get closer than seven points at any time. Minnesota was boosted by a 13-16 performance at the free throw line in the fourth quarter alone. The Gophers, who made their first 13 attempts of the contest, finished 20-23 at the charity stripe in total.
Jada Peebles led Illinois with a game-high 21 points, 10 of which came in the final quarter.
The Golden Gophers close out the two-game homestand Sunday against Wisconsin. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
(photo and info courtesy of Gopher Sports)