The University of Cincinnati women’s basketball team defeated the University of Minnesota Gophers 72-65 Sunday afternoon in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) at Fifth Third Arena.
The win marks the first time in program history that the Bearcats (23-10) have won consecutive postseason games, as the team defeated Youngstown State 76-62 in the first round of the WNIT last week. UC also set a record by reaching 16 wins at home in a single-season.
The Gophers’ season ends at 21-11.
UC junior guard Sam Rodgers, a Cincinnati native and graduate of Lakota East High School, scored a career-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 on three-point attempts.
“Any day that I get to put on this jersey is a blessing,” Rodgers said. “I get to play for my city. I get to do this for my city, my parents and my teammates especially. It means the world.”
The Gophers held a 36-29 advantage at halftime before having their momentum snatched in the second half. The Bearcats, playing in front of a home crowd of 1,945, outscored the Gophers 43-29 in the second half.
“At halftime when we went in the locker room, I told them, ‘It’s going to come down to us playing defense and making big plays,’” first-year UC head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “That’s what happened in the second half. We got stops when we needed to get stops.”
UC junior guard Antoinette Miller stuffed the stat sheet with a team-high 20 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.
“We’re really trusting in the coaching,” Miller said. “We believe in what [Clark-Heard] is trying to do with the program, and she’s very passionate. She brings that to the team, and we really took it to heart. We really want to go out there and play hard for her every day.”
UC junior forward Angel Rizor helped the team outrebound Minnesota 46-32, as she notched a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
“Everybody made big plays,” Clark-Heard said. “That’s the way this team has been all year. We continue to keep growing and keep fighting.”
The Gophers were the second Big-10 conference opponent for the Bearcats this season, as they lost 69-56 to Ohio State University Dec. 2, 2018.
“We knew we had to be tough,” Miller said. “We had to play through some adversity. We just went out there and played hard and gave it our all to come out with a win.”
Minnesota was led by First-Team All-Big 10 guard Kenisha Bell, who finished with a game-high 25 points on 7-of-19 shooting.
UC advances to the Round of 16, where the team will face the Butler University Bulldogs Thursday at Fifth Third Arena. Tip-off is 7 p.m.