The University of Minnesota (18-14) women's basketball team fell 54-51 to Ball State (16-15) Friday night in the opening round of the WNIT at Williams Arena. The loss ends Minnesota's season.
Micaëlla Riché led the Gophers with 18 points, while Rachel Banham recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort.
Ball State jumped on Minnesota early, taking an 11-0 lead on the host Gophers, thanks to an early layup and three-straight three pointers. Kionna Kellogg scored Minnesota's first basket of the contest six minutes into the first half and sparked a 6-0 run from the Maroon and Gold to make the score, 11-6, with just under 12 minutes to play in the first.
A jumper from Banham at 6:38 pulled the Gophers to within eight points, 18-10, before the sophomore cut Ball State's lead to just six points with a driving layup at 4:58. Ball State would answer with a 7-2 run to once again go ahead by 11 points with 2:21 to play in the first stanza. The Cardinals would then take a 27-17 lead into halftime.
Banham had a team-best eight points in the opening half, while Kellogg added five points and six rebounds. It was the fewest points scored by the Gophers in a first half this season, with their previous being 20 points at Michigan State on Jan. 3.
As a team, the Gophers posted a .212 shooting percentage, connecting on just seven of their 33 attempts from the field, while the Cardinals tallied a .345 field goal percentage on 10-29 shooting. Minnesota did hold the advantage on the boards, outrebounding Ball State, 25-21, and added five blocked shots.
The Maroon and Gold opened the second half on a 6-2 run and cut the Cardinals' lead to six points, 29-23, at 14:58 on a short jumper from Kayla Hirt, but a 14-6 run by Ball State gave the visitors a 43-29 lead with 10:16 to play in the contest.
The Cardinals connected on their ninth three-pointer of the contest to take a 16-point lead, its largest of the contest, 51-35, at the 6:11 mark. The Gophers continued to fight back and pulled to within nine points of Ball State, 51-42, with just under four minutes remaining on the clock on a put-back from Riché. A three-pointer from Sari Noga at 2:57 made it a six-point game and a pair of free throws from Riché cut the Cardinals' lead to four points, 51-47. Minnesota would only get within two more points, but eventually fell, 54-51.