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The University of Minnesota (6-1) women's basketball team scored 36 second-half points to come back and defeat Missouri (4-2), 59-54, Saturday afternoon in its final game of the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico. Rachel Banham scored 20 points for the second-straight contest to lead the Golden Gophers offensively, while Kayla Hirt added a career-high 14 points, which included 10 points in the final 20 minutes of play.
Along with her 20 points, Banham also contributed six assists, four rebounds and two steals. Kionna Kellogg led Minnesota on the boards with seven rebounds and Mikayla Bailey added a career-best six rebounds. Kellogg also had eight points and was followed by Shayne Mullaney who had six points.
Minnesota posted a .500 (23-46) field goal percentage, which was aided by a .542 (13-24) mark in the second half. After shooting only four free throws in the opening stanza, the Gophers were sent to the line 18 times in the second half which amounted to 10 points.
For the second-straight contest, the Gophers got off to a slow start and trailed early in the game, 14-6. But, a 15-8 run by Minnesota closed the gap to one point, 22-21, with 5:06 to play until halftime. Back-to-back three-pointers from the Tigers would put the Maroon and Gold back down by seven, before a pair of free throws from Kellogg made it a five-point contest at halftime, 28-23.
The Gophers out-shot the Tigers, .455-.379, but the biggest difference came from three-point range. Missouri managed to sink six three-pointers in the opening stanza, while Minnesota was not able to connect on four attempts from behind the arch. The Tigers also capitalized on nine Gopher turnovers in the first half, scoring 16 of their points off of the team's miscues.
Banham paced Minnesota with seven points in the opening half, while both Kellogg and Bailey had four rebounds to lead the squad.
It was a different story in the second half for Pam Borton's squad, as it fought its way back to take its first lead of the contest, 36-34, with 11:03 to play in the game thanks to four points from Banham.
Minnesota would go up by three points 41-38 at the 8:29 mark, again on a layup from Banham, but two free throws and a three-pointer from Missouri would even the game, 43-43, with 7:37 to play. A jumper from Micaella Riche gave the lead back to the Golden Gophers, but the Tigers would go on a 5-0 run to take a four-point advantage with five minutes to play.
Hirt scored the next eight points for Minnesota to knot the game at 53-53 with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. A jumper by Banham gave the lead back to the Maroon and Gold at 1:38 and the squad was able to secure the comeback victory with a jumper from Hirt and free throws from Banham and Sari Noga.
Minnesota returns home to Williams Arena to take on Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
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