Minnesota (20-9, 9-9 B1G) has earned the No. 7 seed and will face No. 10 Indiana (19-11, 8-10) in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT.
THE OPENING TIP-OFF
• The Golden Gophers have won at least one game at the Big Ten Tournament in four of the last five years. The team is 2-1 in the second round of the tournament with wins over Purdue in 2015 and Penn State in 2017 and a loss to Northwestern in 2016. All-time, Minnesota is 10-25 in the Big Ten Tournament. Thursday will be the first neutral-site game of the year for the Gophers.
• Minnesota is the No. 7 seed for the first time in program history. Accordingly, the team has never faced a No. 10 seed before at the tournament. The Gophers are 7-7 all-time in the tournament when they are the higher seed.
• Minnesota and Indiana have met twice before at the Big Ten Tournament with the Hoosiers winning both contests. Indiana won in the first round in 2001 and knocked off the Gophers in the quarterfinals in 2006.
• Minnesota is facing Indiana for the second time this season as the Golden Gophers defeated the Hoosiers in Bloomington on Feb. 6, 65-61.
• Holding a record of 20-9 overall and 9-9 in league play, Minnesota has recorded the 14th 20-win season in program history. Additionally, the Golden Gophers finished at .500 or better in the Big Ten for the fifth time in the last six seasons and 17th time in team history. Lindsay Whalen is the fifth head coach in program history to win at least 20 games in her first season.
• Few teams in the country do damage at the free throw line like Minnesota. Through Sunday, the Gophers ranked fourth in the NCAA in free throws attempted (666) and fifth in free throws made (466). Kenisha Bell has been the most prolific free throw shooter for the team, ranking fourth in the nation in attempts (229) and seventh in makes (159). In addition, Destiny Pitts is second in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (81.7). On Sunday against Michigan State, Minnesota was 31-of-32 (.969) at the line. The 96.9 shooting percentage was the third best in program history (min. 10 attempts) and the best mark ever when the team attempted more than 11 free throws. The 31 made free throws also matched a season high and tied for the ninth most in program history.
SERIES HISTORY WITH INDIANA
• Minnesota and Indiana will meet for the 68th time on Thursday with the Gophers holding a 37-30 lead in the all-time series.
• The .552 win percentage for Minnesota against Indiana is its best against all teams it has faced at least 20 times in its history.
• In addition, the 37 wins are tied for the Gophers’ second most against one team along with Northwestern. The only team Minnesota has beaten more is Wisconsin (42).
• Minnesota is 2-3 all-time against Indiana at neutral sites, including an 0-2 mark at the Big Ten Tournament.
• In her playing career, Gophers head coach Lindsay Whalen was 3-3 against Indiana. She averaged 18.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, 35.3 percent on 3’s and 78.6 percent from the free throw line.
EARLIER THIS SEASON VS. THE HOOSIERS
• Leading for the majority of the game, Minnesota held off a late charge from Indiana to secure a 65-61 victory on Feb. 6 at Assembly Hall.
• Kenisha Bell was one of three Gophers in double figures as she led all scorers with 22 points and added seven rebounds. Half of her points came from the free throw line as she finished 11-of-17 at the charity stripe.
• Destiny Pitts chipped in with 17 points that included an 8-of-9 effort at the free throw line. As a team, the Gophers finished 20-of-28 at the free throw line.
• Irene Garrido Perez was perfect from the floor as she made all four shots, including all three 3-pointers. Nine of her then-career-high 11 points came in the first half. In addition, she set career highs for rebounds (6) and minutes (40).
• Taiye Bello pulled down 14 boards, eight of which came on the offensive end. She also scored six points and blocked three shots.
• Minnesota opened the game on a 14-4 run and led 16-8 after the first quarter. The lead was nine for Minnesota early in the second quarter, but Indiana closed the gap with an 8-0 run to make it 21-20 with just over five minutes remaining in the half. The Gophers scored the final six points, though, to lead 27-20 at halftime.
• Leading by eight after the third quarter, Minnesota was up 61-49 with 4:15 left in the game, but Indiana responded with 10 straight points to make it a 61-59 game with just 29 seconds to go. Missed shots by the Hoosiers down the stretch and made free throws by the Gophers, however, kept the game in Minnesota’s favor.
RECAPPING THE WIN OVER MICHIGAN STATE
• Minnesota sent off its seniors in style with an 82-63 victory over Michigan State Sunday at Williams Arena.
• Destiny Pitts 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.
• Kenisha 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.
• Taiye Bello recorded her team-best 11th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. She also blocked three shots. 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.
• 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.
• Minnesota went 2-7 in its first nine games of the Big Ten season, but finished the second half of the conference slate with a 7-2 mark to go 9-9 in league play.
• Only conference-champion Maryland and Michigan had a better second-half record than Minnesota as each went 8-1.
• Several players saw their production increase in the second half, but none more so than Destiny Pitts. Her scoring went from 11.7 to 21.6 and her field goal (+.101), 3-point (+.128) and free-throw percentages (+.413) all jumped over 100 points.
• In addition to Pitts, Jasmine Brunson’s scoring went from 6.4 to 11.3 (+4.9), Irene Garrido Perez’s climbed from 1.8 to 6.3 (+4.5) and Kenisha Bell’s moved from 17.7 to 19.6 (+1.9).
• As a whole, the Gophers’ offense picked up its scoring from 63.3 points per game to 69.6, while the defense went from allowing 67.4 points to 59.0.
GOPHERS’ TRIO CLAIMS B1G SEASON AWARDS
• Kenisha Bell, Taiye Bello and Destiny Pitts have all taken home season honors from the Big Ten.
• Bell was a consensus All-Big Ten First Team selection and was placed on the All-Big Ten Defensive Team. It’s the second straight season that Bell has been named an All-Big Ten First Team honoree by the league’s coaches, who voted for her unanimously, and the media. She was also on the All-Big Ten Defensive Team for the second straight year, joining Amanda Zahui B. (2014, 2015) as the only two-time honorees in team history.
• Pitts was named an All-Big Ten First Team honoree by the league’s media and a Second Team selection by the Big Ten coaches.
• Bello was a consensus All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by both the league’s coaches and media, garnering the first conference accolades of her career.
• In addition, Jasmine Brunson was tabbed as the school’s Sportsmanship Award representative.
GOPHERS GAINING EXPERIENCE IN NEW ROLES
• Even though two-thirds of Minnesota’s roster consists of upperclassmen, the Gophers actually have the fewest combined career minutes of any roster in the Big Ten, according to research initially done by Nebraska’s Communications office.
• Through March 3, the Gophers’ roster had played a combined 12,066 minutes, while no other team in the league had fewer than 12,400 combined minutes. For further context, Thursday’s opponent, Indiana, ranks eighth in the Big Ten with 13,395 combined minutes.
• Not only is the team playing under a new coaching staff, all five members of the starting lineup that has been used for most of the season have been playing in different positions than they did a year ago. Among returning starters, Kenisha Bell has gone from the 1 to the 2, while Destiny Pitts has mostly played the 3 this season after playing the 4 a year ago.
• Meanwhile, Jasmine Brunson (1), Taiye Bello (4) and Annalese Lamke (5) have all started a majority of the games this season after primarily coming off the bench a year ago. In addition, Irene Garrido Perez’s 11 career starts have all come in the last 11 games. All four have seen double-digit jumps in their minutes per game this season. Brunson leads the team with an increase of 20.8 minutes per game from last year, while Lamke (+18.0), Garrido Perez (+16.1) and Bello (+14.3) and follow her.
PITTS HEATING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME
• Through the first seven games of B1G play, Destiny Pitts was averaging 9.6 points per contest while shooting 33.8 percent on field goals and 20.0 percent on 3-pointers, making 9-of-45 attempts from long range.
• Since then, she is averaging a team-high 21.1 points per game over the last 11 contests while shooting 46.2 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent on 3-pointers (39-for-89).
• In her last six games, she has scored 21 points against Northwestern, 27 at Purdue, 22 vs. Penn State, 24 at Maryland, 24 at Rutgers and 26 against Michigan State. It’s the first time in her career she’s scored 20+ points in back-to-back games, let alone six straight.
• She is the first Gopher to score 20+ in six consecutive games since Kenisha Bell did it in Dec. of 2017. Pitts is looking to become the first to do it in seven straight contests since Rachel Banham ended the 2015-16 season with 20 straight games with at least 20 points.
• On the year, Pitts ranks second in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (81.7) and 3-pointers attempted (202), and third in 3-pointers made, 3-pointers made per game (2.55) and minutes played per game (35.79).
BELLO DOMINATING THE GLASS
• Through Sunday, Taiye Bello was third in the country and leading the Big Ten in offensive rebounds per game (5), ranked seventh nationally in total rebounds (359) and rebounds per game (12.4). She was also 23rd in the NCAA in defensive rebounds per game (7).
• Bello is also currently the most improved rebounder in the Big Ten, upping her rebounds per game total from 6.3 last year to 12.4 this year, which ranks second in the conference. The +6.1 difference has her tops in the B1G, ahead of teammate Annalese Lamke who has gone from 0.7 to 5.1 per game (+4.4). No other player in the B1G has improved their average by more than +3.3.
• Bello has 19 games this year with at least 10 rebounds, 11 games with at least 15 boards, seven games with at least 18 rebounds and one game with at least 20.
• Bello has 15 double-doubles in her career, including 11 this year, and Minnesota is 13-2 overall in those games.
• She has 146 offensive rebounds this season, breaking the Minnesota single-season record of 143 set by Angie Iverson in 1996-97 (note: records date back to 1987-88).
• Against Penn State on Feb. 17, Bello recorded her 10th double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds. She was 7-of-7 from the floor, marking just the eighth performance in team history, and her second this year, with that many attempts without a miss.
• Janel McCarville and Amanda Zahui B. are the only other players in team history to have multiple games in a career where they’ve attempted at least seven shots and not missed.
• Against No. 17 Rutgers on Feb. 3, Bello posted a double-double 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.
• Bello’s 21 rebounds are also tied for the most by any Big Ten player this year with Maryland’s Shakira Austin.
• She had her first B1G double-double of the year with 12 points and 12 rebounds against Iowa and had 18 boards in back-to-back games versus Purdue and Ohio State.
• At Michigan on Dec. 31, she made all nine attempts from the floor for a career-high 24 points. She became one of five players in Gophers history to not miss when attempting at least that many shots.
• Arguably Bello’s best performance of the season came against No. 12 Syracuse when she went for 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, including 10 offensive.
• Bello posted double-doubles in the first three games this season, becoming the first Minnesota player to have three straight double-doubles since Amanda Zahui B. ended the 2014-15 season with four in a row. And though she didn’t have a double-double against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in game four, she did have 19 rebounds.
BELL FINISHING STRONG IN SENIOR SEASON
• Senior Kenisha Bell leads the Gophers in several categories, including points per game (18.9), assists per game (4.3) and steals per game (2.0).
• Nationally, Bell is fourth in the country in free throw attempts (229) and ranks eighth in makes (159).
• She leads the Big Ten in free throws made, free throw attempts and steals (59), ranks second in field goals made (188) and attempted (470), and sits third in the league in scoring average and steals per game.
• After being named to preseason watch lists for the Nancy Lieberman Award (nation’s top PG) and Naismith Trophy (nation’s top player), Bell earned spots on midseason watch lists for the Wooden Award and is oen of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.
• Bell has also been a four-time Big Ten Player of the Week Honor Roll honoree.
• At Indiana on Feb. 6, Bell went over 2,000 career points. She scored 434 in her freshman season at Marquette and has scored 1,692 at Minnesota for a total of 2,126 career points. She’s one of 20 active players in the country with at least 2,000 points.
BRUNSON MAKING MARK IN RETURN TO STARTING LINEUP
• After starting the first 18 games of the season, Jasmine Brunson came off the bench for the next two contests. She then returned to the starting lineup against Northwestern on Jan. 31, and has elevated her offense and helped the Gophers to a 7-2 record in that span.
• Through the first 20 games, Brunson was averaging 7.2 points and shooting 36.2 percent from the floor. In nine games since rejoining the starting lineup, she’s averaging 11.3 points while shooting 39.6 percent.
• On the year, Brunson is averaging 8.5 points per game after averaging 2.9 last season. That +5.6 increase is the second best in the Big Ten behind only teammate Annalese Lamke (+7.0). No other player in the league is above an increase of 4.7.
GARRIDO PEREZ GETS CALLED INTO STARTING LINEUP
• Irene Garrido Perez has been called into the starting lineup for the last 11 contests, marking all 11 of her career starts.
• Since making the first start of her career against Purdue on Jan. 24, Garrido Perez has averaged 5.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game while playing 35.1 minutes per game. Prior to that, her career totals in those categories were 1.6 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 0.2 steals while averaging 8.5 minutes.
• She’s shooting 45.7 percent on 3-pointers since joining the starting lineup, making 16 of 35 attempts. Her 43.4 shooting percentage on 3’s this year ranks fifth in program single-season history (min. 50 attempts).
• Against Penn State on Feb. 17, Garrido Perez set a career high with 16 points, including a career-best four made 3-pointers and six made field goals.
• In a win at Indiana on Feb. 6, she made all four shots, including all three 3-point attempts. Nine of her then-career high 11 points came in the first half. In addition, she set career highs for rebounds (6) and minutes (40).
LAMKE MAKING THE MOST OF HER SENIOR YEAR
• Excluding transfers and freshmen, no player in the Big Ten has seen her scoring average increase has much from last year to this as Annalese Lamke. Her +7.0 improvement from 1.1 points per game last year to 8.1 this year is 1.4 points better than Jasmine Brunson, who ranks second at +5.6.
• Lamke is also currently the second-most improved rebounder in the conference, jumping from 0.7 per game last year to 5.1 this year, for a difference of +4.4.
• Lamke is shooting 80.7 percent from the free throw line, which would rank fifth in the Big Ten if she qualified. In fact, she’s made her last 14 attempts dating back to the Purdue game on Jan. 24.
• Lamke exploded for a career-high 21 points in the Gophers’ season-opening win over New Hampshire. She scored 17 points alone in the second half and recorded an efficient 9-of-12 shooting.
• Against No. 12 Syracuse on Nov. 29, she had a career-high 13 rebounds and nine points. Lamke also had a 20-point outing against Wisconsin on Dec. 28 and scored 18 points (all in the first half) against Illinois on Jan. 6.
MINNESOTA NEAR THE TOP IN ATTENDANCE
• Through 18 home games, the Gophers have had a total attendance of 103,289 with an average of 5,738 per contest. Through March 3, the team was 10th in the country in total attendance and No. 12 in average.
• Within the Big Ten, only Purdue had a higher total attendance and only Purdue and Iowa had a higher average attendance.
• The average is the highest for the Gophers since 2008-09 when they averaged 5,833 and it’s over 2,600 more than they averaged last year (3,130).
• Minnesota opened the 2018-19 season with a 70-47 win over New Hampshire on Nov. 9. The announced sellout crowd of 14,625 was a program record, surpassing the previous high of 14,363 set during Lindsay Whalen’s senior season in 2004.
• Four of the top five attendance marks in team history, and eight of the top 10, have come with Whalen as either a player or coach.
• The season-opening sellout stood as the highest attendance for any women’s game this season until it was passed on Jan. 31 by the 17,023 that saw No. 2 UConn play at No. 3 Louisville. It is now No. 4.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)