Minnesota women’s basketball starts strong, holds off Penn State

The Gophers beat the Nittany Lions 81-74 in their first Big Ten game of the season

by Brendan O'Brien

In a game of two different halves, the Minnesota women’s basketball team held off Penn State 81-74  to win their 11th consecutive game in the Gophers’ first Big Ten game of the season.

The Gophers got off to strong start on both ends of the court with a 54-21 lead at halftime thanks to the play of freshman guard Sara Scalia and junior forward Destiny Pitts. Scalia scored 15 of her 22 points in the first half, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists. Pitts added 21 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Pitts and Scalia also had little trouble shooting from the outside against Penn State, as the duo combined to shoot about 67 percent from behind the three-point line. Coming into the game, Pitts and Scalia were shooting 45 and 41 percent respectively from three.

Despite the game appearing out of reach at halftime, the Nittany Lions battled back in the second half to challenge the Gophers. Penn State was able to cut into Minnesota’s 33-point lead by limiting the Gophers on offense. Minnesota shot 33 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 64 percent in the first half.

Penn State ultimately found an offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter, scoring 34 points and cutting the their deficit to single digits. Junior guard Kamaria McDaniel also played a significant role in Penn State’s comeback, as Minnesota had very few answers for stopping her in the second half. McDaniel scored 25 points in the second half and finished with 31.

One of the major storylines for Minnesota heading into the season was using a difficult non-conference schedule to prepare for their competition in the Big Ten. The Gophers appeared prepared in the first half of their first Big Ten game of the season but head coach Lindsay Whalen told Gopher Radio Network the win will be important for the rest of the season.

“We just got work to do… It’s all [about] learning,” Whalen said. “It’s all [about] getting better… I’ll take a win when you can learn, so we’ve got a lot we can learn from.”

Minnesota will be back in action Tuesday evening at Williams Arena. The Gophers will face Ohio State in their Big Ten home opener and will try to extend their winning streak to 12 games.