Minnesota bests Purdue for its fifth straight victory

A lot was on the line in the game, as the Big Ten’s standings are extremely close.

Kenisha Bell reacts to a call during the game against Purdue on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Tony Saunders

Kenisha Bell reacts to a call during the game against Purdue on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Babatunde Jinadu

The Gophers visited Purdue’s Mackey Arena for an important road game against the Boilermakers (16-10) on Thursday.

It was a unique matchup. Both Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp and Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen are the coaches of teams they once made their names playing on. Although Versyp and Whalen weren’t able to help their teams on the court, Minnesota got the best of Purdue with a commanding 65-45 victory.

A relatively quiet first quarter saw Purdue start the game with a 15-14 lead.

Ball control was a glaring issue for Whalen’s squad throughout the game. By halftime, the team already had 10 turnovers. However, a four-minute scoring drought from Purdue kept the Gophers in the game. The score was 27-24 in favor of Minnesota at the half.

Two minutes into the third quarter, the teams drew even at 30 points apiece. Then, Minnesota went on a 15-13 run to end the third with a 45-43 advantage.

Senior Kenisha Bell led all scorers with 15 points at that point, while sophomore Destiny Pitts added another 13. But with 10 minutes to go, it was anyone’s ballgame.

“We were really locked in going into the fourth quarter. We understood that we only had ten minutes left in the game and whatever we were going to do, we had to make a run then,” said junior Jasmine Brunson.

That changed quickly when the Gophers kicked off the last quarter with a 5-0 run. At the midway mark of the quarter, Minnesota was enjoying a 10-point lead — its largest of the game.

The lead only grew. Over the last ten minutes, Purdue went 0-11 on field goals and committed eight turnovers. In that same time frame, the Gophers scored 20 points.  

With the victory, the Gophers move to 1-1 against Purdue this season due to loss to the Boilermakers on Jan. 24. Kenisha Bell finished the game with 17 points while Pitts scored 27 points on 10-12 shooting, including 23 points in the second half.

Brunson was impressed by Pitts’ play after the game.

“Destiny Pitts had a really good game. She really stepped up there in the second half when we needed some points,” Brunson said. “She made some really clutch baskets, she was in her zone.”

Pitts seemed content to grab a Big Ten win on the road.

“[In] the first half, they were trying to really limit my touches and [the] looks I got. I knew [in] the second half, in order for us to win, I had to get some good looks, and I knew my teammates were going to find me. It just took a little patience,” Pitts told the Big Ten Network. “We didn’t start Big Ten the way we wanted to, but they say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and I think we’ve put ourselves in a really good position to be successful down the stretch in the Big Ten.”

The team returns to Williams Arena for a game versus Penn State (10-13) on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.