Sissoko, Powell power season-opening win for Gopher women’s hoops

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Sophomores Kadi Sissoko and Jasmine Powell each scored over 20 points, and Minnesota used a strong third quarter to open the 2020-21 season with a 72-68 victory over Eastern Illinois Wednesday afternoon at Williams Arena.

Click the video box on this page to see KSTP Sports’ highlights of Gopher women’s basketball’s season opening 72-68 over Eastern Illinois

Sissoko, who sat out last season after transferring from Syracuse, set career highs in several offensive categories including points (24), field goals made and attempted (9-of-16), free throws made and attempted (5-of-8), rebounds (eight) and minutes played (34) and tied personal bests with two assists and two steals.

Sissoko’s 24 points were the most in a season opener by a Gopher since Carlie Wagner opened the 2016-17 campaign with 27 points against Harvard.

Powell was right behind Sissoko with 21 points, including 7-of-10 at the line. It was her fifth career 20-point outing, and she also tallied eight assists, one off her career high. Fourteen of her 21 points came in the second half, including eight in the decisive third quarter.

Also reaching double figures for the Gophers was sophomore Klarke Sconiers, who posted career bests with both 14 points and eight rebounds. The eight rebounds matched Sissoko for the game high.

Eastern Illinois led for most of the first half, including up 31-24 with three minutes to go in the first half. Minnesota responded with a 7-0 run, though, behind redshirt freshman Grace Cumming’s hook shot, which marked the first points of her career, a 3-pointer from Sissoko and a fastbreak layup from Powell.

The Panthers led 33-31 at halftime but the momentum had swung into the Gophers’ favor and they held onto it en route to outscoring EIU 22-13 in the third quarter to take control of the game.

After a free throw for Eastern Illinois, the Gophers rattled off another 7-0 run, highlighted by a basket from Sconiers that gave Minnesota its first lead at 36-34. Minnesota would not trail the rest of the way, and even had its biggest lead of the contest at 53-44 with 1:36 to play in the third. Eastern Illinois had shot 48.1 percent in the first half, but Minnesota held the Panthers to just 29.4 percent shooting in the third.

All six of senior Gadiva Hubbard’s points came in the third quarter, moving her to 20th all-time on the Gophers’ scoring list (1,078) ahead of current assistant coach Kelly Curry (1,072).

A clutch 3-pointer in the corner from Cumming gave Minnesota a 68-60 lead with 3:15 to play, but EIU rallied for five straight points and got within three less than a minute later. Sissoko responded with a pair of free throws and the Gophers made a huge defensive stop on the other end by forcing a shot clock violation with one minute to play. Powell added two more free throws with less than 30 seconds to play to ice the game.

Minnesota plays the second of its two non-conference games this Sunday at home against Drake at 2 p.m.

Courtesy: University of Minnesota Sports Information