Once again taking care of business against a lesser opponent, the Gophers women’s basketball team beat Coppin State 84-52 at Williams Arena on Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 3,583.
Coach Lindsay Whalen was able to use all her available healthy players, and all 10 of them scored as the 13th-ranked Gophers improved to 10-0 with one more nonconference game remaining before the Big Ten Conference season begins.
Kenisha Bell hit on seven of 12 shots to score 20 points in 24 minutes of playing time. Destiny Pitts hit on four of five three-pointers to score 14 points. Taiye Bello had her fifth double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Coppin State (0-8) was led by Chance Graham with 15 points and Brooke Fields with 14.
Coppin State coach DeWayne Burroughs left Minnesota impressed. His team has yet to win but has played some pretty good teams, having now played four ranked teams.
It was a familiar defensively minded approach that was at the core of this. The Gophers entered the game ranked fifth in the country in scoring defense, allowing 51.2 points per game. Wednesday the Eagles shot just 30 percent (16-for-54).
The result was the Gophers’ third 10-0 start in history. The other two, of course, were when Whalen was playing for the Gophers. They were 12-0 when Whalen was a junior, 15-0 to start the season her senior year.
Whalen is only the second coach in program history to start her first season 10-0. The other was Pam Borton.
The Gophers will get some time off now to take final exams. Whalen offered her players positive reinforcement before they scattered.
“I told the team they’ve been playing really well during this nonconference season,” Whalen said. “And I wanted them to feel good going into finals break.’’
Three of Whalen’s top players should be. Bell had her fifth game with 20 or more points. Wednesday she scored 18 of her 20 in the first half, playing only six-plus minutes in the second. Bello continued her strong rebounding.
Pitts, meanwhile, is on a hot streak. She hit four of five three-pointers this game and has gone 15-for-22 from three in her past three games after going 9-for-35 in her first seven.
To Pitts, it’s a matter of getting comfortable with a new starting five.
“We have found our rhythm together,’’ Pitts said. “I feel pretty good with it right now.’’
The Gophers finished with one of their most efficient offensive games, shooting 31-for-56 (55.4 percent), scoring 25 points off 21 Coppin State turnovers and getting 22 points from bench players.
They can now concentrate on finals knowing they’ve done all they could so far.