Gophers Outlast Illinois, 66-61


  1st 2nd F
 Illinois 28 33 61
 Minnesota 27 39 66
 66   61

Feb. 9, 2014

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The University of Minnesota (15-9, 4-6) women's basketball team got 47 combined points from Rachel Banham and Amanda Zahui B. as it picked up a hard-fought 66-61 victory against Illinois (9-15, 2-9) Sunday afternoon at Williams Arena in front of a crowd of 4,306 fans for its breast cancer awareness game.

Banham posted a game-high 24 points and had five assists to lead the Golden Gophers, and connected on four of her five three-point field goals in the second half.

Zahui tallied her 11th double-double of the year with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while adding three blocks to break Minnesota's single-season blocks record with 68 on the year, with the record-breaking block coming with 4:09 to play in the first half. Former Gopher great Janel McCarville held the previous record of 65 blocks, which was established during the 2003-04 season.

It was Zahui who was clutch for Minnesota in the final minutes of the contest, as she scored eight points, had three defensive rebounds and one steal in the last 2:32 of the game to lead a 17-5 run for the Gophers after trailing by seven points.

Sari Noga dished out a career-high seven assists, and added five points and four rebounds, while Jackie Johnson totaled eight points, two rebounds and two blocks in 29 minutes for Minnesota.

Minnesota shot .480 from the floor overall in the game, which included a .619 mark in the second half, and out-rebounded the Fighting Illini, 38-27. The Gophers posted 34 points in the paint, compared to just 12 for Illinois, and scored 15 points off of 14 visitor turnovers.

The Gophers jumped on top of the Illini early in the contest, taking an 11-2 advantage thanks to eight points from Zahui, and would go on to lead by as many as 10 points, 22-12, with 7:14 to play in the half. But, Illinois slowly closed the gap to three points, 22-19, at the 4:02 mark and would eventually take a one-point lead, 28-27, on a pair of free throws by Ivory Crawford that capped off a 16-5 run by the Illini at halftime.

Zahui would conclude the half with a game-high 13 points and added five rebounds, while finishing the stanza with a .667 shooting percentage after opening the game 5-for-5 from the floor. Banham added nine first-half points and Noga added three points.

Minnesota shot .379 through the first 20 minutes of play and outscored Illinois, 16-4, in the paint. The Gophers also held a 19-17 advantage on the glass.

Banham opened the second half with a three-pointer to put the Gophers back in the lead, 30-28, and they would go ahead by five points, 35-30, before the visiting Illini would once again make a comeback.

Illinois took its largest lead of the game, 46-39, at 9:50 following a 16-4 run, but Minnesota would close the gap to two points, 46-44, following a three-pointer from Banham. The Illini extended its advantage back to seven points, 56-49, with just over four minutes to play, before the Gophers put together a 13-2 run to go ahead, 62-58, with 54 seconds remaining in the game. Johnson would drain a pair of free throws with four seconds on the clock to put Minnesota on top, 66-61, and give the home team its second-straight victory.

Minnesota hits the road for two-consecutive road games this week, traveling first to Wisconsin Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., before heading to Northwestern Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. on BTN.

-UM-