Gophers nail down a big win over Indiana at the Barn

Senior forward Leslie Knight recorded her third career double-double on senior night.

Mark Heise

It was expected that the Indiana women’s basketball team would have several different contributors on the offensive end Thursday, but no one expected Minnesota to do the same.

The Gophers (19-10 overall, 10-7 Big Ten) surprised many at Williams Arena, using eight different scorers to run over the Hoosiers 69-54, securing a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

But with such a young team, that is the kind of talk coach Pam Borton said she was trying to curb.

“We sat down with the team a couple of days ago and addressed this,” Borton said. “We said, ‘This is where we are, and this is what we need to do.’ Our destiny is in our own hands right now.”

Senior forward Leslie Knight made the most of senior night, bouncing back from her only real off-night of the year to complete her third career double-double, scoring 19 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Junior guard Emily Fox led the team with 20 points.

Knight said she was surprised she didn’t cry after playing what was likely her last game at home.

“It was an emotional night,” she said. “But I didn’t let that get to me. I’m just happy things turned out how they did.”

Minnesota won the hustle plays all night long, clawing for basketball not only on offensive boards, but all the way out past half court when losing the rebound opportunity.

This translated into 39 rebounds and 21 forced turnovers, allowing the Gophers to overpower Indiana.

Indiana gave Minnesota some trouble with full court pressure, including double-teaming Fox, and threatened to cut the lead to single digits in the second half, but the Gophers maintained their composure and worked through the pressure, regaining a strong lead to finish out the game.

“We had a little trouble handling it at first,” Fox said. “But we just had to keep our dribble and stay aggressive, and we got some foul calls in the end.”

The Hoosiers shot 29.4 percent in the game, while Minnesota shot 50 percent.

With the win, the Gophers secured the fourth seed for the tournament, barring a loss to Michigan and an end-of-season tie for first place between Ohio State and Iowa.

Michigan (16-11, 9-8) was outscored 51-31 in the second half to lose at home to Wisconsin (16-11, 9-8), 69-67.

Michigan still has an opportunity to grab the remaining first-round bye, however, while the Badgers lose any tiebreak scenario and will play in the first round of the tournament regardless of the outcome of their next game.

Fighting for the final spot will be Michigan State, Indiana and Michigan.

Indiana needs a win Sunday against Penn State to have a chance at a spot, while Michigan can claim the position with a win.

Michigan State, already sitting at 10-8 in Big Ten play will need the Hoosiers and the Wolverines to lose, while Indiana just needs a win and a Michigan loss.

With the fate of three teams resting in the Gophers’ hands, Minnesota heads to Michigan on Sunday.

Unaware at the time that her team had just earned a first-round bye, Fox said the team had a lot of confidence heading into their last game of the regular season.

“We haven’t played Michigan yet this year, so it should definitely be a tough game,” she said. “But we’re confident. We know what we have to do to get the win.”