March 23, 2012
The second-seeded University of Minnesota women's basketball team used a 19-8 run in the final minutes of the second half to advance to the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) Championship, defeating eighth-seeded Manhattan, 67-54, Friday night in front of the home crowd at Williams Arena.
The Golden Gophers will face Northern Iowa in the Championship contest Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. at the friendly confines of the Barn. Tickets are on sale now at mygophersports.com and are $10 for adults and $5 for students, youth and seniors.
Loberg and Kionna Kellogg each pulled down a team-high five rebounds, while Buford dished out a team-high six assists and Banham tallied a career-best five steals. Junior Leah Cotton added five assists and senior Brianna Mastey contributed six points, four rebounds and three steals.
Both teams had to work hard for their points, as there were only six free throws attempted in the entire contest. To top it off, all six attempts were made by the Gophers, as they held Manhattan without a free throw and committed a season-low six personal fouls.
The six trips to the foul line were a season-low for the Maroon and Gold, but the squad made all of them count by connecting on all six attempts.
The Golden Gophers also had 16 steals in the win, which tied its second-best mark this season. Thanks to those 16 steals, the home team scored 33 points off of turnovers, nearly half of its total points in the contest.
Offensively, the Minnesota shot .537 (29-54), which was its second-best mark of the season and marked its fifth-straight contest shooting .475 or better.
Minnesota got off to a fast start by taking an early 8-2 lead thanks to a 6-0 run, but Manhattan answered back with a 6-0 run of its own to even the game 8-8 at the first media timeout. Manhattan's Lindsey Loutsenhizer tallied all eight of the Jaspers' early points.
Manhattan was not able to keep up with the Gophers for long, however, as Banham knocked down a three-pointer in the first possession out of the timeout to spark an 11-0 run and put Minnesota ahead 19-8 at the 11:52 mark of the opening stanza.
A rebound and putback by Loberg at 7:16 put the Maroon and Gold ahead by 12 points, 25-13, which was the squad's largest lead of the half, but Manhattan slowly crept back into the contest late in the first half, pulling to within one point of the Gophers, 29-28, at 1:44 following a three-pointer, a layup and a long jumper.
Back-to-back layups by Loberg extended Minnesota's lead back to five points, 33-28, but the Jaspers connected on a three-pointer with two seconds on the clock to make the score, 33-31, at halftime.
Each team shot efficiently from the field in the first 20 minutes of play, with Minnesota posting a .536 field goal percentage and Manhattan tallying a .448 mark. But, neither team was sent to the free throw line in the half as the teams combined to commit only five personal fouls.
The Gophers opened the second half on an 8-2 run to make the score, 41-33, at the 16:27 mark. The first free throw of the contest was taken five minutes and 50 seconds into the second half, as Banham completed a three-point play to extend Minnesota's lead to eight points, 46-38, at 14:10.
Just as the Maroon and Gold upped its lead to double-figures, the Jaspers hit back-to-back three-pointers to stay within four points of the home squad, 48-44. Manhattan continued to close the gap with a layup at 11:09 to make it a two-point contest, but it was Loberg who completed the three-point play to keep it a five-point game and started a big run for the Gophers.
Thanks to the junior's three-point play, Minnesota put together a 19-5 run to take its largest lead of the game, 67-51, with 1:46 remaining on the clock. The Jaspers would connect on a late three-pointer, their 10th of the game, with 1:33 to play, but the Gophers would run out the clock to claim their third-straight victory and a trip to the WBI Championship.
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The Gophers' road game against the No. 6 Gamecocks will air on SEC Network. Tipoff is 2 p.m. CT Sunday.
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Game Preview: Army West Point
Minnesota plays its second of three games in six days on Thursday night. The 8 p.m. game will be on BTN.