Feb. 1, 2012
The University of Minnesota women's basketball team (12-11, 4-5 Big Ten) will make the short trip to Champaign, Ill., to take on Illinois (7-15, 1-8 Big Ten) Thursday evening in front of a national audience on the Big Ten Network. Tip off for the Big Ten showdown in set for 7:30 p.m. from Assembly Hall.
Thursday, Feb. 2
Minnesota at Illinois- 7:30 p.m. CT
Play-by-Play - Andrew Catalon
Analyst - Debbie Antonelli
Play-by-Play - Corbu Stathes
Analyst - Lynnette Sjoquist
Gametracker via Gophersports.com
Minnesota - 12-11 Overall, 4-5 Big Ten
Illinois - 7-15 Overall, 1-8 Big Ten
Assembly Hall (16,618)
Minnesota trails Illinois, 23-32
The Gophers are coming off one of their biggest wins in recent years Sunday, when they took down No. 9/9 Ohio State, 76-65, in front of a crowd of 5,626 fans.
Minnesota enters Thursday's contest at Illinois tied for seventh in Big Ten Conference standings with a 4-5 league record and a 12-11 overall clip.
The Maroon and Gold has won two of its last four contests, which included the victory over the Buckeyes and a win vs. Michigan State, both of which came at Williams Arena.
The Gophers have only one true road win on the season, a 68-60, victory vs. Northwestern on Jan. 5. The squad has nine home wins and two neutral site victories on the year.
Following Sunday's win vs. Ohio State, Minnesota has three players with double-digit scoring averages. Rachel Banham leads the team with a scoring average of 15.7 points per game, while senior Kiara Buford and junior Katie Loberg are averaging 13.3 and 10.0 points per game, respectively.
Banham and Buford also average double-digit points in Big Ten Conference play. Banham ranks fourth in league standings with 18.8 points per game and Buford is tied for 21st in the rankings with 12.8 points per game. Banham also leads the squad in field goals (134), three-point field goals (38) and three-point field goal percentage (.481), while Buford is the team-leader in free throws (76), assists (77) and steals (45).
Loberg ranks first on the team and seventh in the league with 7.1 rebounds per game overall, while sitting at No. 14 in league-only games with a 6.6 rebounds-per-game average.
The Fighting Illini picked up their first Big Ten Conference win last week by defeating Michigan State, 71-62, in overtime at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
Illinois currently sits at No. 11 in league standings with a 1-8 Big Ten record and a 7-15 overall mark following a 67-47 loss to Nebraska Sunday afternoon.
Previous to its meeting with the Buckeyes, Illinois has lost five of its Big Ten games by a combined total of 18 points.
In five different games this season, Illinois lost either in its last possession or in overtime.
Karisma Penn is the Fighting Illini's leading scorer on the year, boasting a scoring average of 14.2 points per game, while Kersten Magrum follows close behind with an 11.8 points-per-game average.
Penn also paces Illinois in rebounding average at 7.7 boards per game and in total blocks with 46 on the season, good for third in conference standings.
Thanks to Penn, the Fighting Illini rank second in the Big Ten Conference standings with a 5.3 blocks-per-game average. Four different players have 11 or more blocks on the year.
Lydia McCully is the team-leader with 71 assists and 43 steals, while she also averages 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds overall.
The Gophers are 23-32 all-time when facing off with the Fighting Illini, which includes an 8-19 record in Champaign and 14-11 clip in Minneapolis. When facing off with each other at a neutral site, the Maroon and Gold trails Illinois, 2-1 in the series.
The last time the Gophers defeated Illinois on the road was on Jan. 3, 2009. In the 52-48 victory, Kiara Buford, then a freshman, scored eight late points, including a decisive three-pointer in the final minute, and finished the contest with a team-high 14 points.
The victory on the road was also the last time that Minnesota defeated the Illini, having dropped its last four meetings with the squad.
Last Time Out
Minnesota shocked No. 9/9 Ohio State Sunday afternoon in front of a Williams Arena crowd of 5,626, by defeating the visitors, 76-65. The Gophers handed the Buckeyes only their second loss of the season.
The Maroon and Gold had four players score in double-figures in the victory, led by Rachel Banham's 20 points. Kiara Buford added 15 points, while Katie Loberg and Kionna Kellogg chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Gophers shot an impressive .500 from the field, which included a 6-for-10 outing from three-point range, while also connecting on 16 of their 17 free throw attempts.
Up Next for the Gophers
The Maroon and Gold returns to the friendly confines of Williams Arena to take on No. 19/21 Penn State Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
In the all-time series, the Gophers trail the Nittany Lions, 11-22, which includes an 8-8 home clip, a 3-13 road record and a 0-1 neutral site mark.
Minnesota has won 10 of its last 15 meetings with Penn State, but has dropped its last two matchups with the squad.
Minnesota last defeated Penn State on Feb. 11, 2010 in University Park, Penn. In the 59-52 victory, Brittany McCoy made 11-of-12 free throws and scored a game-high 14 points to help the Gophers shoot an impressive 90.3 percent as a team from the foul line, converting 28 of 31 attempts.
The last time the Gophers took down the Nittany Lions in Minneapolis was on Dec. 6, 2009. Kiara Buford scored 15 points to lead Minnesota to a 56-48 victory in its 2009-10 Big Ten opener.
Five-Time Freshman of the Week
Rachel Banham earned her fifth Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor Tuesday morning following a pair of stellar performances vs. Wisconsin and No. 9 Ohio State last week.
The rookie averaged 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 assists, while shooting 85.7 percent from three-point range for the Gophers last week.
Banham scored 19 points, while shooting 3-for-3 from long range, with four rebounds and four steals against Wisconsin on Thursday.
She followed that performance by posting a team-high 20 points, and converting on 75 percent (3-for-4) of her shots from beyond the arch, to lead Minnesota to a victory over No. 9 Ohio State on Sunday.
Banham's five Freshman of the Week selections are the third-most in the award's history, trailing only Purdue's Courtney Moses, who was honored six times last season, and Penn State's Maggie Lucas, who garnered the honor eight times a year ago.
The Big Ten began recognizing a Freshman of the Week during the 2009-10 season.
The guard was also named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Dec. 12, Dec. 26, Jan. 9 and Jan. 17.
She earned the Big Ten Player of the Week award on Jan. 9.
In the Top 10
With 15 points vs. the Buckeyes Sunday afternoon, Kiara Buford surpassed both Ellen Kramer and Marty Dahlen and became one of Minnesota's all-time top 10 scorers with 1,350 career points.
She is the first player to move into the top-10 since Emily Fox finished her career ranked No. 7 with 1,449 career points from 2005-09.
With a scoring average of 13.3 points per game, Buford is on pace to pass Carol Peterka, who scored 1,441 points from 1982-86, for the No. 8 spot, while she also has a chance to catch Fox for the seventh-best scoring total in program history.
Buford needs only 14 points to move past Debbie Hunter for the ninth-best total all-time. Hunter totaled 1,363 points from 1979-83.
The guard also ranks sixth all-time at Minnesota with 119 three-point field goals and 10th with 283 free throws and 54 blocks.
Buford needs 17 assists and eight steals to crack the career top-10 in each category.
First in a While
Minnesota's win vs. No. 9/9 Ohio State was its first vs. a ranked opponent since March 22, 2009, when it took down No. 23/20 Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was also the first time the squad beat a ranked team at Williams Arena since clinching a 79-70 victory over the Buckeyes on Jan. 24, 2008.
The triumph was the Gophers' first win over a Top-10 ranked opponent since Jan. 15, 2006.
Courtside with Jasmine Brunson
GopherSports.com spoke with the freshman point guard as spring semester started at the U of M.
Game Preview: Illinois
The Gophers and Illini will meet at Williams Arena on Wednesday night. Minnesota has beaten Illinois twice in a row.
Wagner on B1G Honor Roll
The guard turned in one of the Gophers' highest-scoring games of the past 15 years.