Dec. 10, 2011
Senior Kiara Buford put together one of the best performances of her career Saturday afternoon to pace the University of Minnesota (6-5) women's basketball team to a 79-53 win over Harvard (4-5) on the second day of the Best Buy Classic at Williams Arena. The Gophers will wrap up the tournament Sunday with a 2:00 p.m. contest vs. Alcorn State.
Buford scored a season-best 25 points, only two points off her career-high, on 11-of-14 shooting from the floor, while adding career-highs with three blocks and 11 made field goals. The guard scored in double-figures in her 11th-straight game for the Golden Gophers, a mark that currently leads the Big Ten. Buford also matched her career-best with six assists and had only one turnover in 34 minutes of play vs. the Crimson.
As a team, Minnesota turned the ball over only six times, a mark that is the lowest this season and the lowest since at least the 2007-08 season.
The Golden Gophers had six blocks, which included two from junior Leah Cotton to match her career-high, and shot a season-best .533 from the field on 32-of-60 shooting. The team's .562 (18-32) shooting percentage in the second half of the contest was its highest of the year and was the best shooting percentage in its final stanza of play this season.
Junior Katie Loberg shot 7-of-13 from the floor and added two free throws to post 16 points vs. Harvard, while also grabbing five rebounds to match senior Brianna Mastey for the second-best total of the afternoon for the home team. Fellow senior Jackie Voigt led the squad with six rebounds, to go along with six points, two assists and a steal.
Freshman Rachel Banham tallied 11 of her 13 total points in the second half, shooting 4-of-7 from the floor in the stanza, and also contributed three assists, two rebounds and a steal in the contest.
Loberg opened the game with a three-point play, before the Golden Gophers jumped out to a 9-2 lead with just under 15 minutes to play in the opening half. The Crimson put together a 14-6 run to take its first lead of the contest on a layup by Christine Clark, but a pair of free throws by Cotton put the lead back in the home team's hands.
A three-pointer by Buford, a layup by B. Mastey and a jumper by Banham completed a 8-0 run by the Gophers to make the score 24-16 with over five minutes to play in the half.
Cotton's layup on an assist from Banham with two minutes to play gave Minnesota a nine-point lead, which was the largest of the half. Harvard cut the lead to seven, but a basket by Voigt sent the Gophers into halftime with a 33-24 advantage.
After scoring 33 points in the first half, the Maroon and Gold turned it on out of the locker room to post 46 in the second half. The 46 points were the most scored in a second half for the Gophers this season and was their second-highest total for a half on the year, just behind its 47 points scored in the first half vs. Air Force Wednesday night.
Minnesota posted a .500 shooting percentage (14-28) from the floor in half No. 1, with Buford finishing the opening stanza with a game-high 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Loberg added nine points, five rebounds and two steals.
Buford had eight of the Gophers' first 14 points of the second half, but Harvard continued to stay with the home team before Voigt made back-to-back baskets and Banham made a three-pointer to give Minnesota a 56-44 lead with 7:38 to play in the game.
Buford made two-straight baskets and Loberg completed her second three-point play of the day to put the Golden Gophers ahead by 19 points, 63-44, and a 16-9 run by the home team closed out the contest and improved its record to 6-5 on the year.
Minnesota concludes play in the Best Buy Classic at Williams Arena Sunday with a 2:00 p.m. contest vs. Alcorn State.
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The senior guard was chosen from nominees representing all 14 conference schools.
Mable, Banham NCAA Woman of the Year Nominees
Minnesota's two nominees will be in consideration for the award's 26th presentation since its inception.