In a game that saw 10 ties and 17 lead changes, the University of Minnesota (15-11, 4-8 B1G) women's basketball team fell to Northwestern (12-13, 4-8 B1G), 70-63, Sunday afternoon in Big Ten Conference action at Williams Arena.
Rachel Banhamled the Golden Gophers with 19 points, which included a three-pointer to pull Minnesota within three points with less than a minute to play. Because of foul trouble, the guard saw only 20 minutes of action, which hampered the squad in both the first and second halves. Banham also had three assists and one steal in the game.
Micaëlla Riché added 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds in 37 minutes of work, while Sari Noga matched her career-best with four three-pointers for 12 points. Also matching her career-high in the contest was Kionna Kellogg, who had five assists to pace the Gophers.
Minnesota shot just .294 in the second half, after having posted a .480 shooting percentage in the first half, to post a .373 field goal percentage in the game, while Northwestern connected on 13 of its 23 attempts in the final 20 minutes of play to notch a .521 shooting percentage in the contest.
The Wildcats were able to score 32 points in the paint, compared to 22 points in the paint for Minnesota.
The Gophers went up by three points early in the contest on a three-pointer from Noga, and extended its lead to six points on a successful three-point play from Banham. A steal and a three-pointer from the Wildcats cut Minnesota's lead in half, but Noga answered with her second three-pointer of the game to make the score 9-3 at 18:04.
Noga nailed her third-straight three-point field goal just three minutes into the contest and had already tallied nine points to put the Maroon and Gold on top by seven, 12-5. Northwestern strung together four-straight baskets to take its first lead of the contest, 13-12, with 13:50 to play in the first half.
A three-pointer off the hand of Shayne Mullaney quickly gave the lead back to Minnesota, 15-13, and a jumper from Riché once again put Minnesota ahead by four points. A 7-2 run from Northwestern put the home team down by one point, 20-19, but a fastbreak layup from Kayla Hirt on an assist from Mikayla Baileyput the lead back in the Gophers' possession, 21-20. The Wildcats were able to follow with a 5-0 run to regain their lead, but jumpers from Hirt, Banham and Bailey switched the teams' roles on the scoreboard once again, 27-25.
From there, the two squads swapped leads twice, before Minnesota headed into halftime with a 30-29 lead.
With a trio of three-pointers, Noga paced the Gophers with nine points in the opening stanza, while both Banham and Riché added five points apiece. Riché was also Minnesota's leader on the boards, pulling down four rebounds.
The Gophers and the Wildcats each shot .480 (12-25) in the first 20 minutes of play, but Minnesota was able to knock down four three-pointers, compared to just two for the visitors.
The two squads remained evenly matched in the first 11:30 of play of the second half, trading leads multiple times, but Banham was forced to take a break on the bench with her fourth foul at 9:52, with the Gophers up by one, 49-48, which allowed Northwestern to claim an eight-point advantage, 58-50, at 4:51, which forced Minnesota to take a timeout.
Banham returned to the contest at that point, and, along with the help of Riche, led the Gophers back into the game. Down 54-67, Riche had four points and Banham nailed a three-pointer with 42.7 left on the clock to cut Northwestern's lead to three, 66-63.
But, that would be as close as the Gophers would get to catching the Wildcats, as they were forced to foul the rest of the way.
Minnesota hits the road for a Big Ten rematch at Ohio State on Thursday, with the 5:00 p.m. CT contest set to be broadcast live on BTN.