No. 5 Indiana women’s basketball scored the final 14 points of the game and beat Minnesota 80-70 on Thursday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The game got off to a fast start, with Minnesota holding an 8-7 lead just over two-and-a-half minutes into the game and a 21-17 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Minnesota put itself on pace to comfortably surpass Indiana’s average allowed points mark of 60 per game.
Minnesota maintained control throughout the second quarter and beyond, but Indiana managed to hang around and stay within striking distance. Indiana trailed by as much as 6 points in the third quarter and trailed with under four minutes remaining in the game.
With 3:46 left in the fourth quarter and the Hoosiers trailing 70-69, senior forward Aleksa Gulbe found a cutting junior guard Grace Waggoner, who put up a quick layup as Minnesota’s defense converged. After balancing on the rim for an eternity, the ball fell through the basket to give the Hoosiers a 1-point lead, which they never surrendered.
Thanks in part to Waggoner’s bucket — her only points in the game — Indiana finished the game on a 14-0 run. Despite the final score, the game was back and forth throughout, with neither team pulling away until the end.
“(Waggoner) got in and did some really nice things for us, especially in the fourth,” head coach Teri Moren said. “One of the things about Waggs that's unique about her is her length. When you play small, you can put her at the four, and she’s used to being able to switch off any ball screen.”
That length and switching ability makes Waggoner a useful defender late in games, which Moren said is the reason she gets put into the game in big moments.
Senior guard Grace Berger helped dictate Indiana’s late run, nearly finishing the game with a triple-double. She ended the game with 19 points and led the team in both rebounds and assists with 10 and eight, respectively.
Throughout the game, Indiana’s offense came through Gulbe’s efforts. In addition to her late assist to Waggoner, Gulbe recorded a career-high 28 points and made each of her four 3-point attempts.
“Tonight was just Lex’s night, and she stepped up in a big way,” Moren said. “I thought she responded when Scalia was knocking down threes. We needed somebody to match those threes, and Lex was able to do that for us tonight.”
Minnesota junior guard Sara Scalia was the driving force behind the Golden Gophers’ near-upset Thursday. She scored 29 points to lead the team and did most of her damage from beyond the arc, shooting 7-12 from 3-point range.
With the win, Indiana moves to 15-3 overall and 7-1 in conference play. Minnesota drops to 10-13 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten.
Next up for Indiana is a rivalry rematch against Purdue at 1 p.m. Sunday. Indiana won the first meeting between the teams in dramatic fashion, needing overtime to win 73-68 in West Lafayette. The second game between the two this season will take place at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.