Gophers fall to No. 21 Scarlet Knights despite clutch play from Destiny Pitts

Destiny Pitts finished with 22 points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game with 15 seconds to go.

Freshman Destiny Pitts attempts to steal the ball from a Boston College player on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Williams Arena. 

Courtney Deutz

Freshman Destiny Pitts attempts to steal the ball from a Boston College player on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Williams Arena. 

Jack White

Guard Destiny Pitts is in her first year of college basketball, but she looked like she had years of experience in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter.

Pitts made three free throws with 1:06 remaining in the fourth quarter to give her team their first lead. She added a baseline 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to send it into overtime.

Pitts and her team kept the game close, but ultimately No. 21 Rutgers pulled away from Minnesota in overtime to win 80-70 on Saturday at Rutgers Athletic Center.

“I thought the fourth quarter was just outstanding,” Gophers head coach Marlene Stollings said. “Destiny Pitts, a freshman, stepping up … You couldn’t ask for a grander performance in the fourth quarter.”

In the fourth quarter, Pitts pump faked and drew a foul as she shot from behind the arc with just over a minute to play. The shot did not go in, but Pitts went to the line, making her three free throws right after a Scarlet Knights timeout to give her team their first lead. 

“I just went to the line with confidence,” Pitts said. “When they called a timeout, I guess they were just trying to ice me.”

Rutgers took its lead back, going up by three, but guard Carlie Wagner found Pitts open in the corner, where Pitts knocked down the game-tying shot. The duo finished with 22 points each, tied for a team high. Then, Wagner stole the ball and passed down the court to Kenisha Bell. Bell had to move quickly because time was running out. She put up a floater and just missed, which kept the score tied as the fourth quarter ended.

“[Bell] rushed it a little bit,” Stollings said. “[She] had a little more time to take a normal shot.”

In overtime, a jump shot from Wagner brought Minnesota (14-5, 3-3 Big Ten) within two points. Rutgers responded with an 8-0 run to close out the game. Pitts tried to copy her heroics from earlier, but she missed a shot from behind the arc with 30 seconds to go, leading Minnesota to foul.

The Scarlet Knights press defense forced mistakes from the Gophers. Minnesota turned the ball over  24 times.The Gophers averaged 13.1 turnovers per game heading into Saturday.

“You know when you play them, you’re going to have to absorb 18 to 22 [turnovers],” Stollings said. “That’s going to happen against them, you’ve got to kind of weather the storm.”

Rutgers (17-3, 5-1 Big Ten) had the lead until 4:50 left in the fourth quarter. The Gophers tied it up when guard Gadiva Hubbard made a layup in traffic, quickly followed by a Rutgers timeout.

After the break, Pitts drove into the lane, but this time the team was called for a charge. The momentum swung back the Scarlet Knights way when Rutgers forward Stasha Carey and guard Khadaizha Sanders made field goals in the paint to help their team go up by four.

The Scarlet Knights went on a 11-game winning streak before losing to Purdue on Wednesday, the game before their matchup with Minnesota. The Boilermakers held Rutgers to 26.8 percent from the field, leading to just 33 points in the game. In its game against the Gophers, Rutgers made it to 33 points with more than four minutes to go in the second quarter. The Scarlet Knights shot 50 percent versus Minnesota.

Minnesota opened the game by going down 10-0. Eventually, the team found their rhythm and sent the game into overtime. Wagner said the Gophers need to come out with more intensity.

“We need to stick to our game plan and want it more than other teams,” Wagner said.