Desperate for a Big Ten win away from Williams Arena and at the tail end of a nearly hopeless road stretch, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team found its guidance in the same place it has resided for the past two-plus years.
Big Ten Player of the Year Lindsay Whalen registered her first 20-point performance in five games, and the 15th-ranked Gophers (17-4, 6-4 Big Ten) defeated Indiana 59-56 on Sunday in Bloomington, Ind.
The victory is Minnesota’s first road win in five attempts this season.
Whalen finished with 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting. She spurred the Gophers to an early 11-2 lead and scored Minnesota’s final nine points to hold off the resilient Hoosiers (9-11, 2-8).
“It was fun to be as aggressive as possible today,” Whalen said. “I knew if I got things going early, I could be effective.”
After the initial 11-2 run, Indiana slowly fought its way back into the game by getting the Gophers in foul trouble. At the half, five Gophers had at least two fouls and Whalen had missed 10 minutes of action, as the Hoosiers took a 27-25 lead.
Minnesota held on to slim leads through much of the second half and took a 52-45 lead into the final minutes.
A quick 8-0 run by the Hoosiers gave them a one-point advantage with just under four minutes remaining.
Whalen drew a foul on the Gophers’ next possession, hit both free throws and didn’t look back.
A couple possessions later, a steal and layup by Whalen made it a three point game.
After Cyndi Valentin hit one of two free throws with 44 seconds remaining, Whalen broke down Hoosier defender Jill Hartman to make it a two-possession game at 58-54.
Indiana forward Lisa Eckart quickly made a layup and Whalen was fouled with 10 seconds remaining. She could make only the front end of the bonus, giving the Hoosiers a chance to tie with one last three-point attempt.
As Minnesota senior captain Corrin Von Wald pulled down her 11th rebound of the game off a Valentin miss, a load was lifted from the collective shoulders of the Gophers. They avoided utter disaster on the road and held on to sole possession of fifth place in the Big Ten.
Minnesota out-rebounded Indiana 47-29, getting Von Wald’s 11 and 14 from sophomore Janel McCarville, who also scored 12 points before fouling out with 3:52 remaining.
Freshman Shannon Schonrock made the first start of her Gopher career in replacing senior captain Lindsay Lieser, who didn’t make it into the game despite Minnesota’s foul trouble.