Gophers top Penn State, advance in Big Ten Tournament

Published 8:57 am Friday, March 3, 2017

Minnesota defeated Penn State 70-64 on Thursday night to advance to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The 10th-seeded Gophers (15-15) led for most of the game and fended off the seventh-seeded Lady Lions’ (19-10) second-half surge to regain the lead and seal it at the free throw line. Minnesota will face second-seeded Maryland at 5:30 p.m. tonight on Big Ten Network.

Carlie Wagner had a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds. She made five three-pointers, including the 200th of her career, and shot 7-7 from the free throw line.

Kenisha Bell joined Wagner in double figures with 13 points, adding four assists and tying her season high with four steals. Bryanna Fernstrom tallied eight points and three blocks. The Gophers got 22 points from their bench.

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Minnesota built an early lead of as much as 12. Penn State eventually came back to take a small lead in the second half, but the Gophers reclaimed it and made late free throws. Overall the Gophers shot 34.4 percent to the Lady Lions’ 31.1. Penn State had a 50-49 rebounding edge.

Teniya Page carried the Lady Lions’ effort with 35 points. She made four three-pointers and shot 9-10 from the free throw line.

How it happened

Minnesota turned its defense into offense early, scoring seven of its first nine points off Penn State turnovers. Jasmine Brunson had a steal and a layup to put the Gophers up 9-4. After Penn State got within two points, the Gophers went on a 7-0 run to lead 16-9. They made five three-pointers in the quarter, including three by Wagner, and Fernstrom’s first as a Gopher when she was left open at the top of the key. Minnesota led 26-17, with most of the Lady Lions’ points coming from Page.

Both teams cooled off shooting in the second quarter, with Minnesota going 2-11. As the Gophers went through an extended field goal drought, Penn State cut the lead to 33-29 at halftime.

Gadiva Hubbard, who missed the regular season finale with an injury, got back on the scoreboard with a three-pointer early in the third. After Page tied the game at 39 with a three-pointer, Wagner drove and scored to regain the lead. But the Lady Lions took their first lead, 43-41, at the 3:23 mark. The teams traded leads a few more times, with Jessie Edwards scoring late in the quarter and Hubbard getting a steal to keep it 46-45, Gophers.

Wagner started the fourth with a three-point play and continued to lead Minnesota throughout the fourth. Her fifth 3-pointer of the game put the Gophers ahead 57-50 with 6:03 to go. Minnesota led 61-51 after an Edwards basket, but Penn State went on an 8-0 run to cut it to 61-59. Bell responded with a three-point play at the 2:19 mark. Minnesota never led by less than three points after that and sealed the game with free throws by Bell and Hubbard and a Hubbard layup.

More notes

Wagner passed Katie Ohm for fourth place on the Gophers’ all-time three-point list. She has 201.

The double-double was the third of Wagner’s career and her second this season. Minnesota has tallied nine double-doubles this year.

Fernstrom previously made 18 three-pointers total at Iowa State and had not yet attempted one at Minnesota.