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The University of Minnesota (7-3) women's basketball team snapped Denver's three-game win streak Wednesday night with a 74-51 win over the visiting Pioneers (3-4) at Williams Arena. Sophomore Rachel Banham posted 21 points, seven rebounds, a career-high seven assists and four steals to lead the Golden Gophers, while junior Micaëlla Riché added 19 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal in the winning effort.
Redshirt freshman Kayla Hirt and junior Kionna Kellogg just missed scoring in double-figures for Minnesota, with the pair each accounting for nine points in the game. Hirt also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal, and Kellogg contributed nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.
As a team, Minnesota posted a .508 (31-61) shooting percentage and scored 42 of their 74 total points in the paint, while the defense held Denver to a .276 (16-58) field goal percentage and forced 17 Pioneer turnovers. The Gophers also held the Pioneers scoreless for almost seven minutes in the second half.
Riché opened the contest with back-to-back baskets to put Minnesota ahead, 4-0, early in the game, before the Gophers cruised out to an eight-point advantage, 12-4.
Denver hit two-straight three-pointers to pull within four points of the home team, 14-10, at the 10-minute mark, but Banham made nine of the Gophers' next 11 points to put Minnesota ahead by nine, 25-16. Riché added a pair of free throws to extend Minnesota's lead to 11 points with five minutes to play in the half, and the Maroon and Gold would go on to lead by as many as 17 points in the first 20 minutes of play. At halftime, Minnesota led Denver, 41-27.
The Gophers were paced by a team-high 15 points from Banham on 6-8 shooting from the floor in the first half. Besides leading in points, Banham also had team highs with five rebounds, five assists and one steal in the opening stanza, while Riche added 10 points, three rebounds, a block and a steal for the home team.
Minnesota posted an impressive .607 (17-28) shooting percentage in the half, getting 22 points in the paint, while holding the Pioneers to a .321 (9-28) shooting percentage.
Denver scored the first two points of the second half, but Minnesota answered with two quick buckets and forced the Pioneers to use a timeout just 1:10 into the stanza. From there, the Gophers would go on to lead by as many as 31 points before sealing the 23-point victory.
Minnesota continues its five-game homestand Friday night when it takes on UMKC at 7:00 p.m. from Williams Arena.
Game Preview: Detroit Mercy
Minnesota looks to get back on track against the Titans on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Video: Meet Sue Key
The guard and Louisiana native joined the Gophers by way of junior college.
Courtside with Kenisha Bell
The Gophers assists leader and one of the team's top scorers, Bell has returned to the court where she played state tournament games.