More than 45 former Gophers women’s basketball players were honored at halftime during Sunday’s alumni day at Williams Arena.
From their seats, the current Gophers treated them to a thriller that wasn’t always positive. Minnesota’s stifling defense led to offensive outbursts and a 14-point lead early in the second half, but Northwestern staked a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
It was all Gophers in the extra period. Minnesota scored the opening nine points to top the Wildcats 73-64 at The Barn.
The Gophers (17-7, 6-7 Big Ten) have won four straight games to dig out of a 2-7 start to league play. Their streak started a 61-54 win over Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., on Jan. 31.
In the fourth quarter, the Gophers run looked to be in jeopardy when the managed only four points and five turnovers in the first nine minutes.
Destiny Pitts stopped a four-plus-minute scoring drought and cut Northwestern’s lead to 58-56 with 52 seconds left. Lindsey Pulliam missed a jumper and Kenisha Bell’s layup tied the game 58-58 and seven seconds left.
Abi Scheid was fouled on Northwestern’s ensuing possession, but missed both free throws. Pitts grabbed the rebound and Minnesota called timeout with four seconds left but couldn’t get off a shot as time expired.
Bell led the Gophers with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Pitts added 21 points, making her first four 3-pointers but missing her next six. She helped ice the game, going seven for eight from the free-throw line.
Northwestern (14-10, 7-6) is third in the conference in scoring defense at 58.6 points per game, with the Gophers set to blow past that with a 37-24 lead.
The Gophers flustered Northwestern with a half-court trap that forced multiple turnovers and sped up the Wildcats offense when they broke the press. The Gophers led by as many as 11 in the first quarter and were up 37-24 at the half.
The Gophers forced 12 turnovers and scored 17 points off them, while limiting Northwestern to only nine points in the second quarter.