CINCINNATI, Ohio – The Minnesota women’s basketball team saw its first season under head coach Lindsay Whalencome to an end with a 72-65 loss at Cincinnati (23-10) Sunday afternoon in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Minnesota ends the season with a record of 21-11 overall. The 21 wins are the 10th most in program history, while the .656 winning percentage is also 10th best. For Whalen, she recorded the fifth most wins and fifth highest winning percentage for a first-year coach at Minnesota.
Playing in the final game of her career, redshirt senior Kenisha Bell had a game-high 25 points, her 15th game this year with at least 20 points. She was 10-of-15 at the free throw line to give her 179 made free throws this year on 255 attempts. Her made free throw figure is the second most in a season in program history behind the 187 she made a year ago, while her attempts ties the school record she set last season.
Bell finishes her Minnesota career ranked in the top 10 in points, scoring average, games in double figures, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, assists and steals.
Also reaching double figures was fellow senior Irene Garrido Perez and sophomore Destiny Pitts.
Garrido Perez had 11 points in her last game in the Maroon and Gold thanks in part to three 3-pointers, all of which came in the first half.
Pitts saw her streak of 20-point games end at eight as she finished with 10 points. She also had six rebounds and a team-high four assists, and made both of her free throw attempts to end the year by making 29 in a row at the line.
In addition, junior Taiye Bello nearly had 12th double-double of the season as she tallied nine points and eight rebounds. Seniors Annalese Lamke and Palma Kaposi also played their final games at Minnesota. Lamke had two points and three rebounds, while Kaposi had two rebounds.
Cincinnati was led by Antoinette Miller’s 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Sam Rodgers added 18 points and Angel Rizor had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Sunday marked the first ever meeting between the teams, but they played evenly in the first quarter as it was knotted up at 17-17 after the first 10 minutes. Garrido Perez and Bell each had six points to pace the Gophers in the opening quarter.
The Bearcats didn’t have their first lead until midway through the second quarter at 23-22. The Gophers quickly responded though with a 12-2 run to grab their largest lead of the contest at 34-25 with 2:57 to go in the first half. Bell had seven of the 12 points during the stretch and had 13 points at intermission where Minnesota led 36-29.
Minnesota never trailed in the third quarter but Cincinnati chipped away at the lead to make it a 53-48 game going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was the deciding factor in the game as Cincinnati doubled up the Gophers, 24-12, in the frame. The Bearcats scored the first six points of the quarter and opened on a 10-2 run. Minnesota trailed by three but a layup and foul drawn by Bello tied the game up at 58-58 with 4:24 to play.
The Bearcats would lead the rest of the way as the Gophers couldn’t get closer than two points. A layup from Bell made it 64-62 in Cincinnati’s favor with just under two minutes to play, however the Bearcats scored the next five points to put the game away.
Looking ahead to next season, Minnesota is scheduled to return eight members of this year’s teams, including three of its top four scorers. In addition, it will be welcoming in Whalen’s first recruiting class.