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The University of Minnesota (2-0) women's basketball team claimed the Best Buy Classic title with a 75-60 victory over Villanova (1-1) Sunday afternoon at Williams Arena. Sophomore Rachel Banham was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, and junior Micaëlla Riché was named to the all-tournament team.
After combining to score 63 points in the semifinals, the duo paced the Golden Gophers once again with a combined 33 points. Riché scored a game-high 20 points and added six rebounds and two blocks, while Banham contributed 13 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists.Sari Noga was Minnesota's leader on the boards, pulling down a career-best 10 rebounds with nine points, while Kayla Hirt contributed six rebounds and eight points. With the duo's efforts, Minnesota out-rebounded the Wildcats, 39-27, and scored 12 of its points off 11 offensive boards.
The Gophers shot .489 (23-47) overall from the floor and made 26 of their 31 free throw attempts. On the weekend, the Maroon and Gold were 62-80 from the free throw line, which included program records of 36 makes on 49 attempts in the semifinal Saturday vs. Washington State.
Minnesota wasted no time in taking a 12 point lead on Villanova with 12:04 to play in the first half, getting at least two points from each of the five starters. It would be the largest advantage of the opening stanza for the Gophers and they would go on to lead 33-26 at halftime.
The Maroon and Gold shot .455 from the field and were a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line in the first half, with Banham leading the way with nine points and three steals. Noga and Hirt were Minnesota's top rebounders with seven and five boards, respectively.
The Gophers would go on to lead by as many as 19 points near the conclusion of the game, despite both Banham and Riché getting into foul trouble.
Freshman Shayne Mullaney saw the first significant minutes of her career in place of Banham, leading the team with four assists, while adding four points, a rebound and a steal.
The Gophers continue their four-game homestand next weekend when they host the Subway Classic at Williams Arena. Minnesota will take on Ohio in the opening round of the tournament Saturday at 12:00 p.m. Maine and UNLV will square off in the second game of the day at 2:00 p.m.
Minnesota Squares Off with Oregon Sunday
3/17/2018 - W. Basketball
The 10th-seeded Golden Gophers continue play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday against No. 2 seed Oregon in Eugene, Ore., at 9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
Second-Half Surge Sends Gophers to Second Round
3/16/2018 - W. Basketball
Minnesota outscored Green Bay 57-35 in the second half en route to an 89-77 win to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Eugene, Ore., Friday afternoon.
Gophers Face Phoenix Friday in NCAA Opener
3/15/2018 - W. Basketball
Minnesota returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014-15, the second time under head coach Marlene Stollings.