March 19, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS - Junior guard Rachel Banham broke a 29-year old scoring record and in doing so, powered the University of Minnesota women's basketball team to a 62-60 opening round victory over Green Bay in the 2014 Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Minnesota (21-12) moves on to face the winner of SMU-Texas Southern in the second round, with game date, time and location to be determined.
Scoring a game-high 31 points, Banham increased her season-scoring total to 714 points, a new school record. It was the sixth 30-plus point game for the Lakeville, Minn., native this season, and she was joined in double figures by Amanda Zahui B. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year posted her 16th double-double of the season (17 points, 14 rebounds) along with five blocks. . Green Bay (22-10), the regular season champions from the Horizon League, saw three double-figure scorers led by 18 points from Tesha Buck.
Banham got the Gophers on the scoreboard less than 30 seconds in with her 3-pointer, and the Gophers did not trail until a layup by Kaili Lukan just over three minutes in put the Phoenix ahead, 7-5. It was a back-and-forth battle through the opening minutes, until the Phoenix, behind a 3-pointer by Sam Terry at the 12:28 mark, opened up a 15-11 lead. As part of a larger 11-2 run, Green Bay saw that advantage stretch to 21-13 with 11 minutes expired in the opening half.
The Gophers cut into the lead, closing within five after another Banham triple made it 23-18, but it was as close as the Maroon and Gold could get in the first half. Minnesota, after Banham's jumper on an assist from senior Sari Noga made it 29-23, was held scoreless for the final two and a half minutes and the Phoenix added one more basket, setting the halftime score of 33-23.
Banham led all scorers in the first 20 minutes with 14 points, while Buck had 13 to pace the Phoenix. Minnesota won the rebounding battle 23-17 but shot just 29.4 percent from the field (10-34), compared to an 11-27 mark for Green Bay (40. 7 percent).
The first 11 points of the half went to the Gophers, erasing the double-digit halftime deficit and putting the hosts up 34-33 with just under five minutes expired. Green Bay answered with a 9-3 run of their own, giving them the lead until Zahui B's layup rolled in with 7:14 left. The 44-43 Gopher lead was shortlived after Mehryn Kraker's 3-pointer beat the shot clock on the ensuing possession.
Zahui again laid it in to tie the score at 46-all with five minutes to play, and the Phoenix found another answer to lead by as much as six, 57-51, entering the final two minutes of regulation. Noga, though, cut it to a one-possession game after her first 3-pointer of the evening at 1:55. Kaili Lukan hit one-of-two at the line, with Banham doing the same at the other end to keep the margin at three, 58-55, with a minute to play.
Kaili Lukan laid it in but Banham drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key, breaking the single-season scoring record previously set by Laura Coenen in 1984-85 and cutting the gap to 60-58.
On Green Bay's next possession, Breannah Ranger had her jumper blocked by Zahui, and Banham connected once more from beyond the arc to give the Gophers their first second-half lead, 61-60, with 10 seconds left.
After a Green Bay timeout once the ball crossed midcourt, Terry tried a go-ahead 3-pointer that was again swatted by Zahui, and the Gophers collected the rebound. Kayla Hirt was fouled, and sank one of two free throws to ice the game.
Wednesday's game marked the third appearance for the Golden Gophers in the WNIT since 1998, and fifth overall. Since 1998, the Gophers are now 2-2 in WNIT play.
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Courtside with Kenisha Bell
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