The University of Minnesota (15-10, 4-7 B1G) women's basketball team came from behind numerous times, but was outlasted at Illinois (14-9, 7-4 B1G), 76-66, Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.
Rachel Banham paced the Golden Gophers with 17 points, six assists and two steals, while Micaëlla Riché and Leah Cotton added 12 points apiece. Riché was also the team-leader with six rebounds.
Overall, Minnesota outshot Illinois with a .471 (24-51) shooting percentage in the contest, which included a .607 (17-27) mark in the second half. The Illini finished the contest with a .462 (25-54) field goal percentage.
The Gophers overcame a slow start to the game, in which they trailed by five points, to even the game, 17-17 at 7:32 on a three-pointer off the hand of Mikayla Bailey. Minnesota then took its first lead of the contest, 19-17, on a pair of free throws from Banham less than two minutes later.
Illinois answered with a 10-0 run to take a 27-19 lead at 4:04, but Kayla Hirtconnected on a layup and Cotton put in a free throw to pull Minnesota to within five points, 27-21. The Gophers would end the first half trailing by the same margin, heading into the locker room down, 32-27.
The Maroon and Gold struggled from the field in the opening stanza, shooting just .304 (7-23), while the Illini connected on 13 of its 32 attempts to post a .406 field goal percentage.
Despite not making a field goal in the first 20 minutes of play, Banham led the Gophers in scoring with six points on 6-6 shooting from the free throw line. Bailey added five points and three rebounds, and both Kionna Kelloggand Riché led the visitors with four rebounds.
Minnesota opened the second half with the first field goals of the day for both Riche and Banham and pulled to within three points, 34-31, at 18:34. The Gophers made it a one-point deficit on a short jumper from Hirt, 41-40, but the Illini would go on a 6-0 run to extend their lead back to seven points at 13:26.
An 8-2 run from the Maroon and Gold made it a three-point game, 53-50, at 8:25, and back-to-back baskets from Riche and Cotton cut the home team's lead to one point, 55-54, but Illinois answered with a three-pointer to go back up by four points.
Hirt's jumper at 6:54 made the score 58-56 with just under seven minutes to play, and a pair of free throws from Banham knotted the score, 58-58, at 5:54. The Gophers evened the game again at 60-60, but Illinois put together a 7-0 run to make the score, 67-60, at 2:73.
A deep three-pointer from Banham cut the Gophers' deficit to four points, but the Illini answered with a three-pointer of their own and a pair of free throws to go back ahead by nine, 72-63.
But, the Gophers were forced to foul at the end of the contest and the Illini came away with the 76-66 victory.
Minnesota will be back in action on Sunday, Feb. 17, when it takes on Northwestern at Williams Arena in its Play for Kay pink game at 2:00 p.m.