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Gophers women’s basketball survives late comeback in third consecutive win

A career-high 30 points from Sara Scalia helped Minnesota notch its third consecutive victory.
Image by Shannon Doyle
Gophers forward Kadi Sissoko blocks Eastern Illinois’ Karle Pace at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The Gophers defeated Eastern Illinois 72-68.

Minnesota’s much-improved play continued Thursday, resulting in a 77-72 victory over Purdue. Thirty points from Sara Scalia earned the Gophers their third consecutive win, as they move to 5-7 on the season and 4-6 in the Big Ten.

The Golden Gophers’ Big Ten campaign continued to roll on Thursday, as the Purdue Boilermakers came to town. Purdue entered Thursday’s contest with a 6-6 record, losing five of its last six games. The Boilermakers have a relatively balanced scoring attack with six players averaging more than seven points, with two averaging double figures. Junior guard Kayana Traylor leads the team, averaging 14.6 points per game and 3.2 assists. The prospect of slowing down Traylor loomed large for the Gophers in pursuit of their third consecutive win.

Monday’s win over Penn State saw Gadiva Hubbard leave with an apparent leg injury late in the game. Gophers’ coach Lindsay Whalen provided no immediate update on her health after the game, but the senior guard’s absence from the starting lineup said enough. Hubbard was not in uniform Thursday with a boot on her left leg. Alexia Smith aimed to replace Hubbard’s 11.5 points-per-game in the starting lineup.

“Everybody just had to do a little more,” Whalen said after the game. “To lose a player of her caliber and still win is a great accomplishment.”

Much like Monday’s win, Jasmine Powell picked up two quick fouls only 3:41 into the game and sat the rest of the quarter. This time it was early-enrollee Katie Borowicz who replaced the star point guard, as Smith was already on the floor. The Roseau, Minnesota native did her best to control the offense and the Gophers only trailed 20-17 after the first quarter.

To begin the second quarter, Powell came off of the bench ready to make up for time lost. The sophomore guard’s seven points in the quarter helped the Gophers find the offensive rhythm they lacked earlier. Sara Scalia added eight points and the duo finished with 15 of the team’s 18 points in the second quarter. Minnesota carried a 35-29 lead into halftime.

Powell and Scalia continued to find great offensive success in the third quarter, but costly turnovers and sloppy defense from the Gophers helped Purdue stick around. The duo’s 12 combined points in the quarter were not enough to overshadow the team’s three turnovers and 12 points allowed in the paint. Minnesota still held onto a 55-53 lead heading into the fourth.

“It is nice to learn from a win,” Whalen said. “There is definitely some stuff we can learn from this game, and we will just continue to learn and get better.”

Scalia’s hot shooting carried into the fourth quarter, with three three-pointers and 11 total points. Scalia seemed to have put the game away, but a pair of costly Minnesota turnovers down the stretch brought Purdue back into the game. A lead that was at nine with just over a minute to go, shrunk all the way to three with 35 seconds left. The Gophers were able to survive winning 77-72.

“The next step is to finish the game strong,” Whalen said. “All the way through – 40 minutes – but there is no question that this team has grown a lot over the last two to three weeks.”

Scalia finished with a career high 30 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field. Kadi Sissoko added 17 points and Powell ended the game with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“I think it all starts with the work that I have been putting in the last couple of days,” Scalia said. “I am definitely getting my rhythm back.”

The Gophers will look for their fourth consecutive win Sunday, Jan. 31, as they will host the Iowa Hawkeyes at Williams Arena.

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