A stingy Minnesota defense led the way as the Golden Gophers knocked off first-place No. 17/19 Rutgers, 60-46, Sunday afternoon at Williams Arena.
The Golden Gophers (15-7, 4-7 B1G) held the Scarlet Knights (17-5, 9-2) to just 33.9 percent shooting, including 26.7 percent in a pivotal third quarter. The 46 points scored by Rutgers were 21 points fewer than their conference scoring average entering the game and 19.4 below their season average. It was also the lowest total by a Big Ten opponent versus the Gophers since an 80-46 win over Rutgers on Feb. 11, 2017.
Junior Taiye Bello posted her eight double-double of the season with 11 points and a career-high 21 rebounds. It tied for the sixth highest total in Gopher history, and they were the most by a Gopher since Amanda Zahui B. had 22 rebounds against DePaul in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Ten of the rebounds were on the offensive end, while the other 11 came on defense. She was also 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
Bello was one of four Gophers in double figures with senior Kenisha Bell leading the way with 19 points, including a 9-of-10 effort at the free throw line and a game-high five assists. Sophomore Destiny Pitts added 14 points, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers, while junior Jasmine Brunson chipped in with 13 points.
Tied 10-10 after the first quarter, Rutgers dominated most of the second quarter. The Scarlet Knights opened the quarter on a 9-0 run through the first 5:55, but the Gophers were able to end the first half on a high note thanks to a 7-2 run. At halftime, Rutgers led 23-17.
The third quarter was all Minnesota as it outscored Rutgers, 22-10. Down 31-26 with 3:36 to play in the third, the Gophers embarked on an 11-0 run in just 1:18 on the clock. Bell converted an and-one play, while Brunson followed with a jumper to even the game at 31-31. Bello and Brunson then followed with three-point plays of their own to cap the run.
Extending into the fourth quarter, the run ended up being 16-2 for Minnesota and they led 42-33 on a 3-pointer from Pitts less than 30 seconds into the final quarter. From there, Rutgers never got closer than five points.
Free throws were vital to Minnesota in the game, making 25-of-31 (80.6 percent) for the second highest total made in a game this year and their third time being above 80 percent. In the second half, the Gophers were 16-of-17 (94.1 percent) at the line. Conversely, Rutgers was just 5-of-10 at the line.
Turnovers were also a key factor in the game. Rutgers forced Minnesota into 14 turnovers in the first half, including nine in the opening quarter. However, the Gophers took better control of the ball in the second half and committed just four turnovers in the third and fourth quarters combined. Five of Rutgers’ 16 turnovers came in the fourth quarter.
(Info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)