Gophers survive Penn State comeback

Minnesota held on for the win despite a late 20-point run by the Nittany Lions.

Mark Heise

The Penn State women’s basketball team didn’t do many things right at home Thursday against Minnesota.

The Nittany Lions did manage to stay out of foul trouble however, which was nearly enough to top the Gophers. However, their comeback fell just short in a 56-48 Minnesota win.

Penn State shot just 35 percent from the field, but hit nine of 11 free throws while committing just nine fouls in the game to nearly overcome a 20-point deficit.

The Gophers, meanwhile, found themselves in foul trouble often, limiting junior guard Emily Fox to nine first-half minutes and pinning sophomore guard Brittany McCoy to the bench in the second half.

But hot shooting saved Minnesota, as the Gophers shot a scalding 54 percent from the floor in the first half to seal their first win at Penn State in 12 years.

“We’re going to be happy with how we won tonight,” coach Pam Borton said. “This was a great team effort.”

Borton also gave credit to her team’s ability to rebound, as the Gophers out-boarded the Nittany Lions 38-21.

“We haven’t really out-rebounded a lot of teams this year,” she said. “We knew we had to start improving on that and we were able to tonight.”

Minnesota (18-8 overall, 9-5 Big Ten) jumped out to a 12-2 lead early in the first half and made use of senior forward Leslie Knight’s 10 first-half points to put up 30 points, 28 of them coming from the starting-five.

Penn State didn’t hit a field-goal attempt in the final six minutes of the half, giving the Gophers a 30-21 lead at halftime.

The Gophers were quick to take control in the second half as well, as sophomore guard Katie Ohm knocked down a pair of three-pointers and Fox began scoring at will.

Fox opened up Minnesota’s biggest lead of the night with a three-pointer, and the game began to look like a blowout as the Gophers led 51-31 with 10 minutes and 55 seconds remaining.

“We were really controlling the tempo,” Fox said. “We were pushing the ball when we needed to, but we also pulled it back at times. We were really in control of the game during that run.”

But Minnesota would not hit another field goal until a Fox layup with 15 seconds remaining, and the Nittany Lions began to chip away at the lead.

Penn State (13-12, 4-9) made use of a 17-1 run to cut the lead to 52-48 with 2 minutes left, but Minnesota held its lead on the road for a 56-48 win.

Fox scored 21 points for the Gophers, while Knight added 12 and Ohm contributed 11. Penn State dropped to a record of 1-10 when trailing at halftime.

Around the league, Iowa lost to Purdue, helping Minnesota climb to within one game of the conference lead.

“We were pretty excited when we heard that,” Ohm said. “We want to win the conference, so this game on Sunday will be huge for us.”