With a record crowd watching, Minnesota routs New Hampshire 70-47 under new coach Lindsay Whalen
Photos: © Onika Craven.
MINNEAPOLIS – Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer is one win away from being the sixth-ever college basketball coach to win 1,000 games. New Minnesota coach Lindsay Whalen is now only 999 victories away after Friday’s 70-47 season-opening win over New Hampshire.
Senior center Annalese Lamke led the Gophers with a career-high 21 points. Redshirt senior guard Kenisha Bell added 17 points and a game-high eight assists while junior forward Taiye Bello had her first double-double of the season (14 points, 14 rebounds) in front of an announced record crowd of 14,625 at Williams Arena.
“I was more excited that we got more people to come out,” Bell said afterwards about the sold-out game.
“I was nervous. My chest was pounding” Lamke added as she discussed her feelings at start the game. “A career game with a career crowd,” she exclaimed.
Other than the one timeout she called with three minutes into the third quarter after the visiting Wildcats made a brief 5-0 run to cut their deficit to 34-25, the first-year Gopher head coach stood the entire game, sometimes with arms folded across her chest but she constantly marched up and down the sidelines in front of her bench like a striking dock worker.
“You could feel the momentum shifted to their side,” Whalen noted. “We needed to prove our will.”
Minnesota sophomore guard/forward Destiny Pitts hit a from the outside right after that timeout and Lamke attacked from inside to push the lead back to double figures. The Gophers held New Hampshire to just two field goals and a free throw the rest of the quarter. During the game, the Gophers led by as much as 27 points.
Whalen praised her players postgame, especially Bell and Lamke. She felt her team, for the most part, handled New Hampshire’s offensive sets, which featured backdoors.
“We gave up a couple of backdoors (in the first half). We cleaned it up in the second half,” Whalen stressed. “Our help side was there in the second half.”
“It keeps my calves in shape,” Whalen quipped in her typical deadpan nature when Hoopfeed asked if standing during games is going to be her typical coaching routine.
Minnesota’s next game is November 14 at Xavier in Cincinnati followed by a six-game home stand, beginning with San Diego November 17. Whether or not the remaining home games this season will continue to draw record crowds remains to be seen but nonetheless the Gophers took Friday’s victory in stride.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Bell concluded.
Whalen’s opening game win improves Gopher head coaches’ debut record to 6-4. Minnesota improved to 28-18 in season opening games, its 10th straight win and victories in 17 of its last 18 such games – the only lost at No. 2 Stanford in 2008. Taiye Bello’s 17 boards vs. New Hampshire was a career high – she grabbed 16 against Illinois in February, 2018. Lamke’s previous career high was eight points at San Diego last season.