Minnesota women’s basketball sent off its seniors in style with an 82-63 victory over Michigan State (19-10, 9-9 B1G) Sunday at Williams Arena.
With the win, Minnesota improved its record to 20-9 overall to capture the 14th 20-win season in program history. Within conference play, Minnesota finished 9-9. It’s the fifth time in the last six years and 17th time overall that it has finished at least .500 in league action.
As a result, Minnesota has earned the No. 7 seed in next week’s Big Ten Tournament. The Golden Gophers will open against No. 10 Indiana (19-11, 8-10) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network. The two teams met earlier this year on Feb. 6 when Minnesota posted a 65-61 in Bloomington.
Sunday, the Gophers were led by 20-point performances by sophomore Destiny Pitts and senior Kenisha Bell.
For Pitts, she posted her sixth straight game with at least 20 points as she led all scorers with 26. She was a perfect 10-of-10 at the free throw line, her most ever makes without a miss at the line, and tied a career high with three steals.
Pitts is averaging 24.0 points per game over her last six games while shooting 48.9 percent from the floor, 43.4 percent on 3-pointers and 91.2 percent on free throws.
Bell posted 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Like Pitts, she was also a perfect 10-of-10 at the charity stripe. It’s the first time in program history that two Gophers each attempted 10 free throws without a miss in the same game.
Gopher head coach Lindsay Whalen says this is a special group of seniors:
As a team, the Gophers were practically flawless at the line as they made their first 18 attempts and finished 31-of-32 on free throws. The 96.9 shooting percentage is the third best in program history (min. 10 attempts) and the best mark ever when the team has attempted more than 11 free throws.
Junior Taiye Bello recorded her team-best 11th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. She also blocked three shots. Fellow junior Jasmine Brunson was the fourth Gopher to reach double figures, scoring 13 to go with a career-high six rebounds.
The game was even after the first quarter at 14-14, but Minnesota outscored Michigan State, 17-6, in the second quarter to take control of the contest. The Spartans were held without a point for the final 5:03 of the frame, and their six points marked the second fewest allowed by Minnesota in a quarter during the Big Ten slate this year.
Minnesota closed out the opening half on an 8-0 run and led 31-20 at intermission.
An early bucket for Michigan State cut the lead to nine points less than a minute into the third quarter, but Bell answered with a layup and Minnesota led by double digits the rest of the way. Pitts scored 11 of her 26 points in the third quarter.
Minnesota’s biggest lead of the game came in the fourth quarter when Pitts converted a three-point play to put the team up 74-52 with 3:16 to go. The 19-point margin of victory marked the largest ever for the Gophers against the Spartans, bettering a 16-point win in Feb. of 2009.
In addition to Bell, Minnesota’s other three seniors all started their final regular season contest at The Barn and contributed to the box score. Irene Garrido Perez had five points, an assist and a steal, while Annalese Lamke scored two points and had four rebounds. Palma Kaposi, who made her fourth career start, had five rebounds and two assists.