MINNEAPOLIS — Playing in overtime for the first time this season, Minnesota (17-7, 6-7 B1G) outlasted Northwestern (14-10, 7-6) Sunday at Williams Arena, 73-64. The win, which was the 700th in program history, gave the Golden Gophers a regular season sweep of the Wildcats following a 61-54 win in Evanston on Jan. 31.
Minnesota has won four straight in the series and four straight in Minneapolis against Northwestern.
The Golden Gophers were up 54-49 with 5:10 left to play in the game when the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run to lead 58-54 with 59 seconds remaining. It was the first lead for Northwestern since 4-3 in the first quarter. The Gophers had an answer, though, as sophomore Destiny Pitts’ basket cut the lead to two with 52 seconds to play. After forcing a missed shot, senior Kenisha Bell grabbed an offensive rebound on the other end and laid it in with seven seconds left to tie the game at 58-58.
Northwestern had a chance to pull ahead when Abi Scheid was fouled with four seconds left, but she missed both free throws, resulting in Minnesota’s first overtime game since Jan. 13, 2018 at Rutgers.
The extra session belonged to Minnesota, which has won four of its past five overtime contests. The Gophers came roaring out of the gates, scoring the first nine points. Junior Taiye Bello got a putback bucket to open the scoring, while fellow junior Jasmine Brunson stole the ball on the next possession and took it in for a fast-break layup. Bell then sandwiched a pair of field goals around a free throw from Pitts to put the Gophers ahead 67-58 with 2:06 remaining in overtime.
Northwestern would get as close as five points with 1:20 to go, but Pitts made all four of her free throws down the stretch to give the Gophers their fourth straight win.
Bell posted her fourth double-double of the season and her 11th as a Gopher as she finished with a game-high 24 points and matched a season high with 11 rebounds. She was 11-for-22 from the floor, setting a season high in made field goals, and she also dished out five assists and recorded five steals, going over the 200-steal mark for her Minnesota career in the process.
Pitts, who played all 45 minutes to tie a career high, notched her second highest scoring total of the season with 21. She made her first four attempts from 3-point range in the first half to ignite the offense early, and was 7-of-8 at the free throw line. All seven free throws came in overtime. She added six rebounds.
Brunson reached double figures for the third time in the last four games as she went for 14 points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Like Pitts, Brunson also played a career-high 45 minutes in the win.
After forcing Northwestern into 19 turnovers in the first meeting between the teams, the Gophers upped that number to 26 on Sunday, the highest turnover total by any opponent this season. In doing so, the Gophers also recorded a season-high 14 steals. Of Minnesota’s 73 points, 33 came off turnovers.
The Gophers got things going in the first quarter as they used a 13-2 run to break a 6-6 tie. The Gophers led 22-15 after the first quarter, their highest-scoring opening quarter of the conference.
The second quarter saw Minnesota achieve its largest lead, getting up by 14 points on two separate occasions, the latest of which came with 1:42 to play as it led 36-22. At the half, Minnesota led 37-24.
Northwestern opened the second half on an 8-2 run to close the gap, but the Gophers still led by eight, 50-42, entering the fourth quarter.
Minnesota is back out on the road Thursday as it travels to Purdue.