6:00 PM ET, January 29, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- No. 14 Minnesota has been relying on its bench to outlast its Big Ten opponents. In Sunday's 77-72 win over Penn State, it was a pair of reserves that made the key plays down the stretch.Natasha Williams took a lob pass in the lane off an inbounds play and pushed in a one-hander to put the Gophers ahead for good at 69-68 with 2:05 remaining.The shot clock was at 2 seconds when Minnesota set up for the play."We have special situations and that's one of them," said Williams on her basket, which came with the shot clock winding down. "I just attacked the rim.""They ran the play well," said Penn State's Amanda Brown. "Props for them making it, but we should have been more prepared for that."Katie Alsdurf's only two baskets of the game were key in helping run Minnesota's winning streak to five games. After making a long 3-point shot, she grabbed an airball by Jamie Broback and flipped the ball into the basket for a 73-68 lead with 59 seconds left."It's called scoop," joked Alsdurf about the play. "I just was trying to hit the rim, and then it went in. Hey, it worked.""I hope I got counted for the assist," said Broback, who led all scorers with 25 points. "Good thing Katie was there, a nice little finger roll."Minnesota held a 21-6 edge in bench scoring. In their last four Big Ten games, all victories, Minnesota's bench averaged 36 points. In their last loss, a 60-56 overtime setback to Purdue, Minnesota got just 16 points from its reserves."Our bench made the difference, especially in the end," said Minnesota coach Pam Borton.Minnesota's solid play in the closing minutes wasted a strong effort by the Nittany Lions, who wiped out an early 13-point lead to go up 68-67 on Brianne O'Rourke's free throw with 2:37 remaining. But while Minnesota made the clutch baskets, Penn State missed several shots and turned the ball over in the closing minutes."We don't need heroes, we need to play as a team," said Penn State coach Renee Portland. "Crucial mistakes took this one away from us."April Calhoun scored 13 points and Liz Podominick added 10 for Minnesota (15-4, 7-1 Big Ten).Brown and Kamela Gissendanner each scored 18 points for Penn State (9-11, 3-6). Andrienne Squire scored 15 and Brianne O'Rourke had 11.Minnesota held Penn State scoreless for nearly six minutes midway through the first half, building a 27-14 lead on a pair of free throws by Broback. The Nittany Lions, who missed 20 of their first 28 shots, got back into the game with a 10-2 run, pulling within 34-30 on Gissendanner's short hook shot.Penn State went ahead 58-54 midway through the second half when O'Rourke made four straight free throws to finish off an 11-0 run.