Dec. 22, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS - Rachel Banham's 1,500th career point came on a three-point shot late in the first half Sunday afternoon as the Minnesota women's basketball team defeated Auburn, 67-54, at Williams Arena in the final game of the Subway Classic.
The victory gave Minnesota the tournament title, which was decided by a points-allowed tiebreaker after all three teams finished 1-1 over the weekend.
A game-high from Banham, who scored 22 points, and strong contributions from Amanda Zahui B. (16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocks) and Sari Noga (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) kept the Gophers in front of the Tigers for most of the game's final 30 minutes. Minnesota never trailed in the second half, leading by as many as 15 en route to the victory.
While Minnesota led throughout the second half, Auburn's backcourt pressure did occasionally cause problems for the Gophers, creating both chaos and turnovers, but the home team remained composed and firmly took control of play later in the half, outscoring Auburn by 11 points over the game's final 9:31. A key stretch in deciding the game's outcome came with about four minutes to play, as Minnesota's Micaella Riche took a charge on an Auburn drive and Zahui B hit a layup on the other end to put Minnesota ahead 60-46. The Gophers sealed the victory after a long outlet pass set up Riche near the rim, where she made a layup and then a free throw to complete a three-point play, extending the Gopher lead to 15 with 1:10 remaining.
Both teams came out aggressively on defense from the game's opening minutes and continued to apply pressure throughout the game. Auburn extended its defense into the backcourt and effectively harassed Minnesota ball-handlers throughout the game, leading to 23 Gopher turnovers. The Minnesota defense helped minimize the impact of those miscues by generating 22 turnovers of its own, often pushing the Tigers deep into the shot clock and forcing rushed shots and shot clock violations. As the Gopher offense more effectively handled Auburn's pressure midway through the first half, Minnesota wrestled the lead away and did not trail again before heading to the locker room with a 30-25 lead. Sparked by its defense generating opportunities, Auburn pulled to within 4, 40-36, with 9:31 to play, but the Tigers would never get any closer. Tyrese Tanner led Auburn with 15 points, just short of her 16.9 points/game average, but struggled to stay on the floor, playing only 21 minutes and fouling out in the game's closing moments.
Banham became the eighth Gopher women's basketball player to reach the 1,500-point milestone. Her 22 points extends her streak of consecutive 20-plus point games to six. She was named to the Subway Classic All-Tournament team as well as being named the tournament's MVP. She was joined on the tournament team by teammate Zahui.
Up next for Minnesota, the Gophers will host Oakland for a December 29 matinee at the Barn.
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