Scalia leads Gophers to 77-72 win over Purdue

Minnesota sophomore Sara Scalia scored a career-high 30 points and Minnesota (5-7, 4-6 Big Ten) won its third straight game with a 77-72 victory over Purdue (6-7, 3-6) Thursday at Williams Arena.

In addition to her point total, which was the highest by a Gopher this year, Scalia set career highs in field goals made (10) and 3-pointers made (6). She was 10-of-17 from the floor and 6-of-10 on 3’s, while also going 4-of-4 at the free throw line, improving to a perfect 18-of-18 on the season at the line.

After scoring two points in the first quarter, Scalia notched eight in the second, nine in the third and 11 in the fourth quarter. Her previous career high was 23 points at George Washington on Dec. 10 last season.

Also in double figures for Minnesota were fellow sophomores Kadi Sissoko and Jasmine Powell. Sissoko tallied 17 points, her highest total in the last five contests, to go with five rebounds and a career-high four steals. Powell finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds. She has scored at least 11 points in each of the last 14 games.

Thursday’s win was Minnesota’s first at home over Purdue since Jan. 14, 2010, snapping a streak of seven straight losses to the Boilermakers. As a team, the Gophers shot a season-best 47.5 percent from the floor, including 40.0 percent from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers were held to 21.1 percent on 3’s, a season low for a Minnesota opponent.

A tight first quarter saw six ties and four lead changes and Purdue emerged from the first 10 minutes with a 20-17 lead. The Gophers’ defense stepped up in the second quarter, though.

Down 26-25 in the second, Minnesota went on a 10-0 run with Scalia and Powell accounting for nine of those points. In total, the Golden Gophers outscored Purdue, 18-9, in the quarter to lead 35-29 at halftime.

The nine second-quarter points for Purdue were the lowest for a Minnesota opponent in any quarter this season, while the 29 points equaled the fewest in any half. The Boilermakers were held to 26.7 percent shooting, including misses on all six 3-pointers.

Minnesota led by as many as 10 in the third quarter but Purdue worked its way back and tied the game at 59-59 with 6:52 to play. The Gophers turned to Scalia who broke the tie with a 3-pointer, while Sissoko pushed the lead to six with a 3-point play.

After a pair of made free throws for Brooke Moore, who led Purdue with 20 points, Powell made two free throws of her own before Sissoko added another bucket to cap a 10-2 run that put Minnesota up 69-61 with 3:07 remaining.

Minnesota had to withstand one last late Purdue run as a 75-66 lead with 1:22 to play was reduced to a 75-72 lead for the Gophers with 37 seconds left.

However, junior Kayla Mershon made a free throw to make it a two-possession game, while freshman Alexia Smith grabbed a defensive rebound off a potential game-tying 3-pointer and then made another free throw to bring the game to its final margin. A Smith steal on Purdue’s next possession sealed the game.