Gophers fend off Virginia Tech

The Minnesota women’s basketball team (5-3) defeated the Hokies (4-3) 63-58 at Williams Arena Thursday behind Kiara Buford’s 27 points.

John Hageman

Whew.

The Minnesota women’s basketball team exhaled in relief after nearly blowing two double-digit leads to Virginia Tech in a nail-biting 63-58 win at Williams Arena Thursday in this year’s installment of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Junior Kiara Buford led all scorers with a career-high 27 points, while the rest of the starting lineup combined for 14. But maybe her most important scores came after the Gophers let an eight-point lead with 1:42 left slip away to a three point margin in a little more than a minute. Her two free throw attempts with 14.3 seconds left in the game hit nothing but net, giving the Gophers a five-point lead and sealing the game.

The Gophers held Virginia Tech to just six points in the first 13:41, but the Hokies rode an 18-6 run into halftime and trailed by just six at the break. Riding that wave of momentum, the Hokies cut the lead to one point early in the second, but the Gophers pulled away thanks to three-pointers from Buford and senior China Antoine.

The Hokies stuck around, never trailing by more than 10 points in the second before nearly completing their second chance at a comeback late in the game.

“I’m happy that we’re disappointed with this,” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. “That shows us that we have higher expectations for our team. So that’s a good sign for our players and our coaching staff that we’re not just satisfied with winning like this.”

Sophomore starting center Katie Loberg again went down with an injury Thursday, and sat out the entire second half. Loberg missed a couple weeks earlier this season with a left knee injury, and returned to the lineup last weekend at the Nugget Classic in Reno, Nev. Borton said she’s unsure of Loberg’s status.

The Gophers will travel to Waco, Texas to face No. 2 Baylor Sunday at 1 p.m.