The University of Minnesota women's basketball team played a strong game start to finish Thursday night to hand Michigan State its second Big Ten loss of the season, 71-65, in front of the home crowd at Williams Arena.
The Gophers improved to 11-9 overall and to 3-3 in league play, while the Spartans, who came into the contest receiving two votes in the latest AP Top 25 Poll, fell to 12-7 on the year and 4-2 in conference play.
The victory was the first vs. Michigan State since Feb. 26, 2009, and the first at Williams Arena since Feb. 2 that same year, while it also gave the Spartans back-to-back losses for the first time since Jan. 2010.
Minnesota shot .478 from the field in the contest, its highest field goal percentage in Big Ten play this season and its best mark since shooting .533 vs. Harvard on Dec. 10, while it also shot an impressive .711 from the free throw line, making 27 of its 38 attempts.
Three Gophers scored in double-figures against the visiting Spartans, with senior Kiara Buford posting her second 20-point game of the year to lead all players with 22 points, which included 10 points from the free throw line. Freshman Rachel Banham finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals, while senior Jackie Voigtput together her best offensive performance of the year with 11 points. Voigt also had three rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.
Micaëlla Riché added nine points, three rebounds and two steals, and Katie Lobergmatched the team-high with seven rebounds to go along with eight points and three blocks.
The Maroon and Gold shot .520 from the floor in the first half, and led by as many as 12 points late in the opening stanza, to take a 38-27 lead into halftime. Banham led all players with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while Buford added 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with four free throws and four rebounds.
The Gophers used a four points each from Riche, Buford and Cotton to take a 53-39 advantage, which included a fastbreak layup by Cotton on a dazzling bounce pass from Banham which electrified the crowd to its feet at Williams Arena. The 14-point lead was the largest of the contest for the Maroon and Gold.
Michigan State would not go away easily, as the visitors crept back into the contest thanks to a 12-4 run, to make the score, 57-51, with 7:28 to play in the contest. The Gophers continued to attack on the offensive end of the floor, however, to extend its advantage back to 10 points with :33 remaining on the clock. Minnesota would hold off the Spartans run at the end of the contest to claim its third Big Ten victory of the season.
The Gophers are back on the road Sunday when they travel to Lincoln, Neb., their first Big Ten meeting vs. Nebraska. The contest 5:00 p.m. contest is set to be broadcast live on BTN from the Devaney Center.