Nov. 24, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -
Minnesota did not make a field goal in the last four minutes of the game, but connected on 8 of 10 free throw attempts to let the Golden Gophers to hold off the Navy women's basketball team, 62-55, Sunday afternoon at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn.
"Minnesota is really well coached, selfless and moved the ball really well," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "They were tough for us to match up against on the inside."
Navy's record fell to 4-2 with the loss, while Minnesota improved to 4-1 on the year with the win.
The opening points of the game were fittingly tallied by Navy senior Jade Geif, who hails from nearby Lakeville, Minn., and had a very large contingent of family and friends in attendance. Geif's basket jumpstarted the Mids out to a 7-0 lead to begin the game. The Gophers would tie the game at 9-9 and the score would be tied three more times in the half including at 17-17. Navy took leads of 21-17 and 23-20 before Minnesota closed the first half on an 11-2 run to take a 31-25 lead at the break.
The Mids were 1 of 10 from three-point range in the first half, but made 9 of 14 two-point attempts in the frame. Geif alone was 4 of 4 from the field in totaling nine points and four boards in the half.
Minnesota soon built a 35-27 lead only to see a three-point field goal by Kara Pollinger (Sr., Fort Gay, W.Va.) and a jumper by Geif slice the margin down to 35-32 with 15 minutes remaining in the game. The Gophers extended the lead back to nine points at 43-34, only to see another Pollinger triple start a rally by the Mids. Alix Membreno (Sr., Loxahatchee, Fla.) made two free throws, then a triple by Bauer made the score 43-42 with 11 minutes showing on the clock.
Each team notched one three-point field goal over the next three minutes of play (46-45, 8:04), then the Gophers scored the next five points to take a 51-45 lead with 6:12 remaining. A Chloe Stapleton
(Jr., Cary, N.C.) three pointer sliced the lead in half, but that last one possession as Minnesota's Sari Noga answered with a three-ball of her own with 5:22 left on the clock.
Geif scored consecutive field goals that were sandwiched around a free throw by Amanda Zahui to again make it a three-point game at 55-52 with 3:34 remaining. Each team missed field goal attempts on their next respective possession, then Rachel Banham made two free throws to make the score 57-52 with 2:25 remaining. Navy missed two shots on its next possession, with the Mids forcing another Minnesota miss on its next trip down the court. A Navy turnover gave the ball back to the Gophers, and they would tally one point on a free throw with 1:08 left to play.
Navy struck quickly on its next possession as Stapleton made a triple with 50 seconds left to pull the Mids to within 58-55. The Gophers took their time with the ball and sent it inside where eventually Zahui was fouled with 28 seconds remaining. She made both free throw attempts to make the score 60-55. Pollinger missed a three-point shot with 15 seconds left, then Banham was fouled after grabbing the errant shot. Banham made both attempts from the line with 13.8 seconds left, with a missed three-point attempt by Stapleton closing out play.
"Minnesota made some plays down the stretch," said Pemper, "including forcing us into a couple of untimely turnovers. They moved the ball around so that we had to scramble to double them."
Navy made 6 of 16 (37.5%) of its three-point attempts in the second half, with two of its misses dropping halfway down the cylinder before spinning out. As a whole, the Mids shot 37.9 percent from the floor after halftime and 39.6 percent for the game. Minnesota made 34.6 percent of its second-half field goal attempts and was 9 of 11 (81.8%) from the foul line during the last 20 minutes of play. The Gophers would end the game shooting 42.6 percent from the field.
Geif played all 40 minutes of the game and sank 8 of her 11 field goal attempts on her way to tallying 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"It is a bittersweet day," said Geif. "It was great to come home and play on the same court that I watched so many great players play on while growing up. It was like a dream to do so. It was cool to play in front of the same fans I used to sit in the stands with.
"We as a team put every ounce of effort we had into this from the start of the game to the finish. Minnesota is good. Kara came out and played her butt off. She was fearless out there and we as a team fed off of that. We had the mentality that it was not good enough to just be here or just be in the game."
"It means a lot to a player who goes away from school to come home and play a game," said Pemper. "She is going to remember this forever. She did a good job of playing in front of so many family and friends. I'm really proud of her."
Minnesota billed the game as Military Appreciation Day, which began with the Minnesota players paying tribute to the Navy players in a speech and presentation of personalized letters to each Mid.
"I thought the military appreciation they did was incredibly classy, thoughtful and emotional," said Pemper. "It also was very unexpected."
"It is hard to put into words how much their gesture meant to us," said team captain Pollinger. "We don't ever receive an appreciation like that. For them to look past the basketball court and at us as not their opponents, but instead see the bigger picture, was awesome. I've been going around (post game) trying to find as many Minnesota players as I can to personally thank them for the kindness they displayed to us."
Pollinger herself recorded a trio of three-point field goals made, 13 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Membreno posted nine points, seven caroms and four assists.
Banham led Minnesota with 18 points while Zahui added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
"Zahui is a handful inside," said Pemper. "And Banham is a First-Team All-Big Ten performer who gave us problems on the perimeter.
Navy, which was playing its fourth game in eight days in its fourth different state, will next play host to the Navy Classic on Nov. 29 and 30 in Alumni Hall.