Gophers women’s basketball rallies late to pick up big home win over Syracuse
After building a 5-0 record against mostly lesser competition, the Gophers womens basketball team knew Thursdays game with 12th-ranked Syracuse would be a test of where they are early this season.
An early grade: A-minus.
In a Big Ten/ACC challenge between two top-20 teams, the Gophers responded with a 12-0 run of their own, one capped by Kenisha Bells twisting three-point play in the lane with 1:41 left while coming back for a 72-68 victory over the Orange in an entertaining, back-and-forth battle.
It was a victory that, for the 20th-ranked Gophers who ended the game on a 17-7 run could reverberate all the way into selection-committee deliberations in March.
Taiye Bello had yet another double-double, scoring 20 points with 18 rebounds. Bell finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Annalese Lamke had nine points and 13 rebounds.
Syracuse (6-2) was led by Kiara Lewis (14) and Miranda Drummond (12).
The Gophers made up for 35-percent shooting by dominating on the boards, grabbing 23 offensive rebounds and turning them into 16 second-chance points. The Gophers also had a 23-5 edge on free throws.
The Gophers led for most of the game, but found themselves behind late by six.
Not for long. It began with a three-pointer by Destiny Pitts. Bell scored on the break, then both Bell and Bello hit one of two free throws and the Gophers were off.
Syracuse scored the first two points of the first quarter. Most of the rest of the first 10 minutes belonged to the Gophers.
Making relatively easy work of the Oranges 1-2-2 press and using the quickness of Bell and Brunson on the perimeter, the Gophers built a lead as big as 23-11 late in the quarter before a late Syracuse three-pointer pulled the Orange within 23-14 at quarters end.
Still, the Gophers forced six Syracuse turnovers, scoring six points off of them, had an 8-1 edge at the free throw line and held Syracuse to 6-for-15 shooting. Bello (eight), Brunson (six) and Bell (five) led the way for Minnesota.
The Gophers, who totaled 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, stayed in control for much of the second quarter, even when the Orange started hitting from three. The Gophers opened the second quarter with an 11-6 run to take a 34-22 lead on Bells drive with 5:32 left in the half. And then the Gophers went about 5 minutes without scoring a point.
Finding it hard to get shots in the halfcourt against Syracuses 2-3 zone, the Gophers made just one of 10 shots in the final 5andfrac12; minutes. Meanwhile, Syracuse went on a 9-0 run, with four players scoring, to pull within 34-31.
The good news: The Gophers toughened up on defense, holding the Orange scoreless over the final 2-plus minutes of the half. And Annalese Lamke ended the Syracuse run with a basket in the lane in the closing seconds, putting the Gophers up 36-31.
Staying on the offensive boards, the Gophers rebuilt their lead early in the third, going up 44-33 on Bellos three-point play mid-way through the quarter, which gave the Gophers an 8-2 start to the second half.
But, again, another dry spell.
Struggling in the half-court, the Gophers 6-for-19 in the third let the Orang back in it. Mangakahia scored back-to-back buckets, starting a 13-6 Syracuse run to end the quarter that brought the Orange within 50-46 entering the fourth quarter.