MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota not only needed a win, it needed a
complete effort from its young women's basketball team.
The Gophers got it big time, showing newfound grit and maturity
in rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to knock off
Illinois 70-61 Sunday at Williams Arena.
Less than a week after losing steam and a 15-point halftime lead
in a bitter 58-56 setback to Iowa, the Gophers appeared ready for
another collapse when the Illini seemed to take control with an
11-0 run early in the second half.
After a time out, Leslie Knight ignited a 14-2 Minnesota rally
with five straight points, and after a tying basket by Lacey
Simpson, Kelly Roysland nailed a three-pointer and the Gophers
never trailed again.
"We were talking the whole time in the huddle," said Knight.
"The past couple games we've kind of gone in the tank a little
bit, and not believed wholeheartedly in ourselves. We just believed
and we went out there, we got that little boost and got back in
Roysland finished the Illini off almost single-handedly. She
scored 12 of Minnesota's final 15 points on her way to a
"No one said anything to me," said Roysland, the lone senior
on the Gopher roster. "I think it was my teammates and everyone
saying 'believe in it, if you have an open look, take it."
The Gophers set the foundation for the win with a full-court
press and tough man-to-man defense that belied their sagging effort
in last week's 58-56 loss to Iowa in which they squandered a
15-point halftime lead.
"It looked like we had never seen a pass before," said
Illinois coach Theresa Grentz. "No one worked to break it. If I
was Minnesota I'd probably do the same thing."
Illinois (11-3, 1-1), which opened the Big Ten season with an
impressive 74-65 overtime win over Penn State, saw its five-game
winning streak stopped.
Minnesota had plenty of fire throughout the game against the
Illini. Roysland's three-pointer with 14:58 put the Gophers ahead
Then Simpson made a three-point basket to spark an 11-0 run that
gave the Illini their biggest lead of the game at 51-41.
The Gophers didn't quit, though. After Knight's five straight
points, Emily Fox drilled a three-pointer, with Ashley Ellis-Milan
making two free throws for a 55-53 Minnesota lead.
Simpson tied the score with a jumper from the baseline, but
Roysland put the Gophers ahead for good with a deep three-pointer
that she accentuated with a pump of her right fist.
Chelsea Gordon led Illinois with 17 points, while Lori Bjork
added 13 and Simpson scored 11.
Ellis-Milan had 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Minnesota's suffocating man-to-man defense wrecked the Illinois
offense from the outset. The Illini missed 12 of their first 15
shots, and the Gophers got a couple of three-pointers by Roysland
to take a 16-9 lead.
Illinois then made nine of its next 10 free throws, and a
three-point basket by Gordon put them ahead for the first time at