March 23, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS - Behind a career-high scoring night for Sari Noga, the University of Minnesota women's basketball team withstood a late Southern Methodist rally, defeating the Mustangs 77-70 in WNIT second-round action at Williams Arena Sunday evening.
Minnesota (22-12) moves onto the third round of the WNIT, while the Mustangs conclude their season at 18-14. The Gophers will travel to South Dakota State on Thursday evening, facing the Jackrabbits at 7 p.m. in Brookings, S.D.
Noga poured in 22 points of 9-of-16 shooting to lead a quintet of Gophers in double figures. Amanda Zahui B. and Mikayla Bailey each registered a double-double, with Zahui pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds along with 10 points. Bailey posted her first career double-double, scoring 11 points along with a career-high 11 rebounds. Kayla Hirt added 12 points while Rachel Banham added 11 points.
For the Mustangs, Keena Mays accounted for nearly half of their scoring output as she scored 34 points along with a team-high nine rebounds.
The Gophers exploded out of the opening tap, scoring a 14-2 run over the first four minutes to set the tone early. Minnesota connected on six of its first seven field goal attempts, allowing just one Mustangs basket in the first 4:35. SMU pulled within five at the 13:34 mark, but Noga and Banham combined to lead the Gophers back into a double-digit margin, 26-13, less than two minutes later.
Minnesota's lead grew to 16 on several occasions as the half wound down, and with two seconds remaining, Noga scored in the paint, leaving the score 46-29 as the teams headed to the locker room.
The Gophers shot 50 percent from the field in the opening half (20-40), including a 46.2 mark from beyond the arc (6-13). Three players reached double figure scoring in just 20 minutes of action, with Noga leading the way at 14 points. Mays had 10 to pace the Mustangs, but SMU did not have an answer for Minnesota's highest-scoring first half in postseason play in 20 years.
Zahui's jumper just over a minute into the action gave the Gophers their largest lead at 19, with the Mustangs closing with single digits halfway through the half. Mays hit a 3-pointer at the 10-minute mark, cutting the deficit to 57-48, but the margin remained in double-figures. A 6-1 run by the Mustangs, though, got them even closer at 70-65 inside of three minutes remaining.
A pair of Joanna Hedstrom free throws pushed it back to a seven-point game, and Noga rolled in a layup a minute later to make it 74-65. After several unsuccessful offensive possessions by the Mustangs, Mays hit a 3-pointer with 1:21 left, bringing the game back within two possessions. Korina Baker stole the ball from the Gophers on the next trip up the floor, passed it to Mays who converted the layup, inching the Mustangs closer at 74-70 with 1:05 remaining.
Inside of 30 seconds left, SMU could not convert a layup and after grabbing the rebound, Bailey was fouled and hit both of her free throws. Mays put up another 3-point attempt to try to cut the deficit in half, but she was off the mark and again, Bailey rebounded and hit one of two free throws to ice the victory.
Minnesota played most of the second half without Banham, who left the game at the 15:19 mark with a leg injury. With the victory, the Gophers secured their 22nd victory, their most since the 26-win campaign in 2004-05.
Game Preview: South Carolina
The Gophers' road game against the No. 6 Gamecocks will air on SEC Network. Tipoff is 2 p.m. CT Sunday.
Gophers Beat Army 70-52
Marlene Stollings won her 50th game at Minnesota as the Gophers moved to 5-1 at home this season.
Game Preview: Army West Point
Minnesota plays its second of three games in six days on Thursday night. The 8 p.m. game will be on BTN.