Feb. 16, 2012
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Behind 19 points from freshman Rachel Banham and 12 points from senior Kiara Buford, the University of Minnesota women's basketball team took down Illinois, 60-53, Thursday night in Big Ten Conference action as it recognized its four seniors at Williams Arena.
The victory improved the Gophers' record to an even 14-14 on the season and 6-8 in Big Ten action, while the Fighting Illini dropped to 10-17 overall and 4-10 in league play.
Along with her team-leading 19 points, Banham added four rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist, while Buford tacked on seven rebounds, five assists and three steals to her 12 points in her final regular-season contest at Williams Arena.
Fellow seniors Brianna Mastey and Jackie Voigt combined for 10 points and 10 rebounds, with Mastey putting up six points and pulling down six rebounds and Voigt getting four points and four rebounds in their home finale.
Micaëlla Riché led the Gophers with a career-high eight rebounds to go along with five points, two steals and a career-best two blocks, and Kionna Kellogg pitched in eight points and five rebounds for the home team.
The Gophers took an early 11-6 lead on the Fighting Illini to open the contest, but the visitors put together a 16-2 run to put the home team in a 22-13 hole with 8:14 to play in the first half. The Maroon and Gold fought back with a 13-3 run of their own to take a 25-25 lead at halftime.
It was a sloppy first half for both squads, as the pair combined for 25 turnovers. The Gophers held a slight edge in shooting percentage at .364, compared to the Illini's .267 percentage from the floor.
Banham and Buford led the Gophers with seven and six points, respectively, in the opening stanza, while Riché was the team-leader on the boards with five rebounds.
Neither team led by more than four points in the second half until Buford laid one in with under three minutes to play to give Minnesota at 51-45 advantage. Banham connected on a three-pointer with 1:52 to play to put the Gophers ahead by nine and essentially sealed the win for the home team. The Maroon and Gold would put in six free throws in the final minute to close it out.
The Gophers will enjoy a bye this weekend, before hitting the road for their final two regular-season games of the year. Minnesota will take on Ohio State Feb. 23 in Columbus, Ohio, before closing out its schedule Feb. 26 vs. Penn State in University Park, Pa. Both games will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.