Gophers move on to second round of NCAA Tournament

No. 10 Minnesota defeated No. 7 Green Bay in the opening round.

Kenisha Bell dribbles the ball on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Williams Arena.

Courtney Deutz

Kenisha Bell dribbles the ball on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Williams Arena.

Ellie Martin

Down 64-59 at the end of the third quarter, Minnesota needed a comeback against its opponent Green Bay on Friday. Without it, the Gophers would lose in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

But No. 10 Minnesota stormed back, as the team pulled off the upset victory against the No. 7 seed Green Bay 89-77 in Eugene, Oregon. 

“We told each other to stay poised throughout the whole thing, because we’ve seen so many games where teams came back from a [large deficit],” guard Kenisha Bell told reporters. “I think that since we didn’t let up and stayed posed the whole game and picked up our intensity, that helped us get this win.”

Minnesota outscored Green Bay 30-13 in the fourth quarter. Bell scored a team-best 26 points in the game, 24 of which were in the second half. 

Guard Destiny Pitts scored 20 points in the game to finish second among Minnesota scorers. Pitts added eight rebounds. She shot 5-7 from beyond the arc.

“I’m just really grateful,” Pitts told reporters. “I just give credit to my teammates and coaches, because they prepared me for this tournament and they told me not to put too much pressure on myself and just do what you do.”

At the end of the first half, Minnesota’s dreams of a NCAA Tournament victory seemed bleak, with the Gophers trailing by double digits, 42-32, heading into the locker room. The team shot 35.5 percent compared to Green Bay’s 39.5 field goal percentage through the first two quarters.

The Gophers netted 27 points in the third after scoring just 10 the previous quarter. Minnesota looked to regain its lead in the second half. The team managed to cut its 10-point deficit to five entering the final frame.

From there, Bell sunk two free throws at the line to give the Gophers a six-point lead with 1:45 left in the game. Minnesota pulled away after that and finished the game without giving up its lead.

Center Jessie Edwards was one rebound shy of a double-double, coming off the bench and scoring 12 points on 4-5 shooting to go with her nine rebounds.

Green Bay’s Allie LeClaire led her team with 17 points. This marks the fourth year in a row that Green Bay lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Until this season, the Gophers have not returned to the NCAA Tournament since 2015, where they lost in the first round. The team goes up against No. 2 Oregon in the second round of the tournament on Sunday.

“It’s more of a mentality,” head coach Marlene Stollings told reporters. “Are we really happy to be here, or do we really want to go into the tournament and try to do something phenomenal and special for our program, our university and our state?”