Carlie Wagner saves her best year for last

Wagner is second on the team in scoring as the team sits at tied for third in the Big Ten.

Guard Carlie Wagner maneuvers around an Indiana player during the game on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at William's Arena.

Jack Rodgers

Guard Carlie Wagner maneuvers around an Indiana player during the game on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at William’s Arena.

Ellie Martin

Guard Carlie Wagner said she had the goal of making All-Big Ten first team before the start of the season.

She isn’t thinking about that anymore.

Minnesota is tied for third in its conference as the team tries to make the NCAA Tournament. If they made the tournament, the Gophers would break a drought that dates back to Wagner’s freshman year. She is averaging less points than last season, but Minnesota has six more victories.

“The incredible young woman that she is, she has been extremely coachable her whole career,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “She has worked so tremendously hard, and the quality of the person that she is has been the most memorable for me.” 

Ahead of her final regular season game on Sunday at Illinois (9-20, 0-15 Big Ten), Wagner has contributed to one of her best college teams. 

The Gophers received the most votes in the AP poll to not rank inside the top-25 this week. Also, the Gophers are two victories away from matching the last Minnesota team to make the tournament. Minnesota last heard its name called in the selection show during the 2014-15 season, so many of the players on team are unfamiliar with the experience. Wagner, however, is not.

“This is my last shot,” Wagner said. “I don’t get to say I have next year, no this is it for me. Urgency is definitely the word.” 

The Gophers turnaround from last season has come with a more balanced attack. Wagner ranks second on the team in scoring to guard Kenisha Bell — Bell averages 19.4 points per game and Wagner averages 18.2. Minnesota also has four players, counting Wagner and Bell, averaging double-digit points per game, as opposed to just three last year. Wagner is the oldest in grade of the four leading scorers and her teammates refer to her as a leader.

As the Gophers prepare to lose one of their most influential players, guard Destiny Pitts described what it was like to be part of the same team as Wagner. Pitts is in her first year with the team and she wishes Wagner could stick around for a few more seasons.

“It’s been really special, I’m grateful,” Pitts said. “She’s been a really big leader for me, and shows me how to be a leader both on and off the court.”

As she finishes out her career as a Minnesota player, Wagner entered her senior year eighth on Minnesota’s all-time scoring list and fourth in career 3-pointers. She finished All-Big Ten second team as a junior, but Wagner has set her mind on team goals rather than individual awards in her senior year.

 “I think we’re playing well at the right time, and things are going to keep coming our way,” Wagner said. “But we need to keep working.” 

Jack White contributed to this report.