March 6, 2014
A thrilling team comeback victory for the No. 6-seeded University of Minnesota women's basketball team (20-11) kicked off the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind. Despite trailing by 16 points early in the second half, Minnesota overcame a double-digit deficit in order to defeat the No. 11 seed Wisconsin (10-19), 74-68, in overtime at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Gophers, led by junior Rachel Banham with 22 points and redshirt freshman Amanda Zahui B. with 19 boards, would fight their way back in the second half to tie the game with less than a minute to go in regulation.
Zahui B. recorded her Big Ten-leading 15th double-double with 12 points and tied her career high with 19 rebounds en route to the comeback victory. In her last three outings, Zahui B. has averaged 18.7 rebounds per game. Strabresa McDaniel grabbed a career-high eight rebounds and Kayla Hirt posted 14 points on the evening.
It was the second overtime appearance in the Big Ten Tournament for the Golden Gophers. The last time the Gophers played extra minutes in the conference tournament was in 2005, when they defeated No. 1-seeded Ohio State, 66-63, to earn an appearance in the championship game.
The game marks the 20th victory for the Golden Gophers this, a feat that has not been accomplished since 2009.
After trailing 35-21 at halftime, the Maroon and Gold hit the court in the second half with fire in their eyes. After falling down by 16 points at 15:11, Hirt led a 12-2 run where the Gophers saw points from senior Micaella Riche, Hirt, McDaniel and Banham. At the end of the run for Minnesota, they had cut the Badgers lead to just six, 46-40, with 9:20 left in the game.
Between the eight minute and three minute mark, the Gophers fought to keep their ground and try to gain a lead on Wisconsin. The turning point in the game was a three-pointer from senior Sari Noga that propelled the Gophers into comeback territory at 2:43 as the Gophers trailed by just five. Thanks to multiple boards from Zahui B., a quick layup from Hirt and a game-tying three-pointer from Banham, the Gophers would close out the half on 33-17 run to send the game into overtime.
Zahui B. kicked off overtime with four rebounds and two points which gave the Maroon and Gold its first lead of the game, 63-61, at 4:12. Banham, Noga and Hirt would all contribute to the Gophers final score of 74. Banham, who went to the line twice and walked away with four freebies, would seal the deal for the Gophers with seconds left in the overtime period.
The Gophers advance to 20-11 on the season and will take on No. 3-seeded Nebraska on Friday, March 7 at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Courtside with Jasmine Brunson
GopherSports.com spoke with the freshman point guard as spring semester started at the U of M.
Game Preview: Illinois
The Gophers and Illini will meet at Williams Arena on Wednesday night. Minnesota has beaten Illinois twice in a row.
Wagner on B1G Honor Roll
The guard turned in one of the Gophers' highest-scoring games of the past 15 years.