Kim Prince’s superstition makes sense. Before each game, the Gophers’ first-year center puts a penny in her game shoe. On Sunday, Prince’s luck and the fortune of her teammates took a new twist.
Minnesota (8-10 overall, 1-6 Big Ten) beat visiting Indiana-Purdue 80-57, ending its six-game losing skid and giving the program its most wins in a season since 1994-95. Prince chipped in 11 points off the bench and was one of five Gophers to score in double digits.
This scoring by committee brought relief for injury-plagued Minnesota as it prepares to continue the Big Ten season.
“Everybody stepped up when they got the ball,” Gophers senior Erin Olson said. “It wasn’t that we were looking for one or two people to carry the team. This game we all played aggressively.”
Sophomore point guard Cassie VanderHeyden led Minnesota scorers. Playing with a hyperextended elbow — an injury suffered to her left, nonshooting elbow during the team’s game on Thursday — VanderHeyden dumped in a season-high 23 points. Fifteen of those came from beyond the three-point arc.
VanderHeyden scored 14 points in the first half, guiding the Gophers attack. But the Jaguars (6-11, 2-5 Mid-Continent) were still within reach, as Minnesota led 38-29.
Back for the second half, Minnesota executed well inside and outside. Up 54-45 with 6:40 left, Gophers sophomore forward Jackie Tate fed senior Moneeke Bowden for the layup.
The bury was on.
Minnesota went on to outscore the Jaguars 24-13 in the final minutes. In the end, the Gophers shot 54 percent from the floor with 20 assists and 36 rebounds.
The team also committed just 12 turnovers, an area that has been a concern for Minnesota coach Cheryl Littlejohn throughout the season.
“(After Thursday’s game) the team had a heart-to-heart meeting and decided that each person had to be held accountable,” Littlejohn said. “I think it showed (Sunday).”
With some newly-found confidence, the Gophers round out their three-game homestand on Thursday. The team resumes Big Ten play against Purdue, looking to break another skid. Minnesota has lost 21 consecutive conference home games.
“When you’re not winning, it just kinds of builds up. And when you are winning, it does the same thing,” Olson said. “You build on one another and you have that confidence and those positive things going through you.”
ùGophers senior Brandi Harris did not dress Sunday. The Gophers guard re-injured her sprained left ankle. Harris’ first sprained her ankle in Minnesota’s Jan. 10 loss to Penn State.
Sarah Mitchell covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]