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Gophers eke out late win against Nittany Lions at Williams Arena

The bench players on Minnesota’s women’s basketball team did not have as significant a stat line as they have in past games.

But it still was the reserves who helped lead the 16th-ranked Gophers to victory, as they defeated Penn State 77-72 on Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 11,529 at Williams Arena, the biggest of the year.

The win moved Minnesota (15-4, 7-1 Big Ten) to within a half game of Ohio State for second place in the conference.

Midway through the second half, after the Gophers had let a 13-point lead slip away, coach Pam Borton said she didn’t like what she saw.

“We weren’t clicking out there on either end of the floor,” Borton said. “We weren’t defending and we weren’t scoring.”

Instead of sticking with her experienced and veteran guards, Borton went with Emily Fox, Brittney Davis and Katie Alsdurf with the game tied at 58 and 7:51 left to go.

“We’ve been in this situation once before this year,” Borton said. “I made a decision to go with our bench this time and the last time I didn’t and we didn’t win that game.”

The strategy worked, as all three came up with big plays.

Davis stole the ball from Brianne O’Rourke close to mid-court and finished with a layup to give the Gophers a 60-58 lead.

With the game tied again, at 67 with three minutes remaining, Fox ripped the ball away from Amanda Brown after a Penn State rebound.

But Alsdurf likely made her presence most known to the Nittany Lions.

She hit a three-pointer in the last four minutes, and then grabbed an offensive rebound and tossed it up for a one-handed shot that gave the Gophers a 73-68 lead with less than a minute remaining.

“Our bench made the difference, especially in the end,” Borton said.

The starters also did their part, however.

Jamie Broback had her second-straight dominant performance, with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

She scored the first 10 points for Minnesota in the second half, and was a perfect eight for eight from the free-throw line.

Frontcourt teammate Liz Podominick just missed a double-double, with 10 points and nine rebounds, four of them offensive.

Senior guard April Calhoun added 13 points and three assists.

Penn State had four players in double figures, led by Amanda Brown and Kamela Gissendanner with 18 apiece.

“We were in a position that we worked really hard to get into,” Lions coach Rene Portland said. “But crucial mistakes at the end of the game took this one away from us.”

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