|Minnesota (14-14, 6-8) at No. 8/14 Ohio State (23-4, 10-4)
||Thursday, February 23, 2012
||7:00 p.m. CT
||Value City Arena (19,049)
||Minnesota trails 11-50
||W, 76-65 (Jan. 29, 2012)
||BTN (Eric Collins, Mary Murphy)
||KBEM Jazz 88.5 FM (Listen Online)
||(Corbu Stathes, Lynnette Sjoquist)
||Minnesota | Ohio State
||Minnesota | Ohio State
||Facebook | @GophersWBB
The Gophers close out the regular-season portion of their schedule this week with the toughest slate in the league, as it faces the top-two teams in the Big Ten on the road.
Minnesota will take on No. 8 Ohio State Thursday at 7:00 p.m. CT in Columbus, Ohio, before concluding the season at No. 11 Penn State Sunday at 1:00 p.m. CT. Both game will air live on Big Ten Network.
The squad ranks eighth in Big Ten standings with a 6-8 conference record and an even 14-14 overall clip, having won two-straight contests heading into Thursday's matchup vs. the Buckeyes. The Gophers defeated both No. 16 Nebraska and Illinois at Williams Arena last week.
Freshman Rachel Banham continues to make a run at the Big Ten Freshman of the Year title, as she leads Minnesota with a scoring average of 16.2 points per game, a mark that ranks sixth in league standings and first among conference freshmen.
The rookie also paces the Maroon and Gold and ranks fifth in scoring in Big Ten conference games, with an 18.6 points-per-game average.
Banham also leads the Gophers and is tops in the league with a .446 three-point shooting percentage, connecting on 45 of her 101 attempts.
Senior Kiara Buford is also averaging double-digits in scoring this season, with a 13.6 point-per-game clip. She also leads the Gophers in free throws (94), assists (91) and steals (58).
Junior Katie Loberg is the Gophers' team-leader in rebounds, averaging 6.4 per game, while Kionna Kellogg is averaging a team-best 5.9 rebounds per game in league contests.
Scouting No. 8/14 Ohio State
Ohio State hosts Minnesota with a 23-4 record on the season and a 10-4 Big Ten Conference mark, which puts them at second in the league standings.
The Buckeyes come into the contest ranked eighth nationally in the AP Top-25 Poll and 14th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Though its record is impressive, Ohio State has dropped three of its last six contests, which included a loss to the Gophers on Jan. 29 at Williams Arena.
The Buckeyes are also coming off of a, 84-68, loss at Penn State Monday night, in which five Nittany Lions scored in double figures and almost doubled Ohio State's rebounding total, 60-32.
However, Ohio State is outscoring its opponents this season by an average of 14.1 points per game.
Tayler Hill paces the Buckeyes in scoring with a 21.1 points-per-game average, while she also has a team-leading 67 steals. Hill boasts an average of 20.9 points per contest in Big Ten action, while Samantha Prahalis leads the team with 21.3 points per game in league games.
Ashley Adams is the team-leader in rebounding (6.4/game) and is averaging 3.0 blocks per contest.
Minnesota is 11-50 all-time when facing the Buckeyes, but has only picked up one victory in 25 meetings vs. Ohio State in Columbus. Eight wins have come at home, while the Gophers have twice defeated the squad at a neutral site.
Thursday's meeting will be the second between the two teams this season, as Minnesota upset Ohio State, 76-65, at Williams Arena on Jan. 29 in front of a season-best home crowd of 5,626 fans.
The Maroon and Gold last defeated Ohio State on the road on Jan. 15, 2009, thanks to three free throws in the final 17 seconds by Ashley Ellis-Milan. It was the first and only win for the Gophers at Value City Arena.
Against Ranked Opponents
This season, Minnesota is 2-6 when facing off against ranked opponents, with its wins coming vs. No. 9/9 Ohio State on Jan. 29 and 16/15 Nebraska on Feb. 13, both a Williams Arena.
In those contests, the Gophers averaged 59.8 points and 41.8 rebounds per game.
Rachel Banham has averaged 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game against ranked opponents, while Kiara Buford is averaging 11.8 points, 3.8 assists and 2.4 steals per contest.
Kionna Kellogg paces the Maroon and Gold with 7.1 rebounds per game against Top-25 teams, while Katie Loberg boasts a rebounding average of 5.9 per game.
Below are the games against ranked teams this season:
Rank Opponent Score
14/13 Florida State - L, 56-68
1/1 Baylor - L, 60-89
20/21 Purdue - L, 53-57
17/20 Purdue - L, 55-72
20/24 Nebraska - L, 49-64
9/9 Ohio State - W, 76-65
19/21 Penn State - L, 65-68
16/15 Nebraska - W, 64-58
Since Pam Borton's arrival at Minnesota, the Gophers are 20-44 vs. ranked counterparts.
The last time the Maroon and Gold defeated a ranked opponent on the road was in a, 79-71, victory vs. No. 23/20 Notre Dame in South Bend on March 22, 2009 in the first round NCAA Tournament.
Two Times the Fun
The Gophers have posted wins against Top-25 opponents twice this season, both coming in conference play.
Minnesota upset No. 16 Nebraska Monday night, 64-58, and also took down No. 9/9 Ohio State, 76-65 on Jan. 29.
Both wins came in the friendly confines of Williams Arena, where the Gophers are 11-4 this season.
The last time the Maroon and Gold knocked off two ranked opponents in the same season was in 2008-09. During that year, Minnesota defeated 15/13 Ohio State on the road and No. 20/24 Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
The last time the Gophers defeated a pair of ranked foes in the same regular-season dates back to the 2007-08. Minnesota beat 22/21 Louisville and No. 15/15 Ohio State.
Last Time Out
Behind 19 points from Rachel Banham and 12 points from Kiara Buford, Minnesota took down Illinois, 60-53, Thursday night in Big Ten Conference action as it recognized its four seniors at Williams Arena.
Along with her team-leading 19 points, Banham added four rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist, while Buford tacked on seven rebounds, five assists and three steals to her 12 points in her final regular-season contest at Williams Arena.
Brianna Mastey and Jackie Voigt combined for 10 points and 10 rebounds, with Mastey putting up six points and pulling down six rebounds and Voigt getting four points and four rebounds in their home finale.
Micaëlla Riché led the Gophers with a career-high eight rebounds to go along with five points, two steals and a career-best two blocks, and Kionna Kellogg pitched in eight points and five rebounds for the home team.
Up Next for the Gophers
Minnesota will close out its regular-season schedule at No. 11/15 Penn State Feb. 26.
The league contest will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network.
The Gophers have already faced the Nittany Lions this season, falling to the squad, 68-65, on Feb. 5 at Williams Arena, despite holding a 15-point lead in the first half.
The Maroon and Gold is 11-23 in the series vs. Penn State.
The Gophers last defeated Penn State on the road on Feb. 11, 2010, but their last home win against the Nittany Lions came on Dec. 6, 2009.
On the Road
Road wins have been hard to come by for the Gophers this season, as the squad has only one true road win on the year, a 68-60 victory at Northwestern on Jan. 5.
Minnesota has also picked up neutral-site wins vs. Arkansas and Virginia Tech early in the season.
Surpassing a Former Great
With 21 points vs. Nebraska on Feb. 13, freshman Rachel Banham moved past former Gopher standout and fellow point guard Lindsay Whalen's rookie point total.
Banham enters Thursday's contest with 454 points, 10 more than Whalen's final total of 425 points scored during the 2000-01 season.
Banham needs only two points to match Laura Coenen's rookie total of 456 points and 21 points to match Linda Roberts' freshman total of 475 points.
As a rookie, Whalen averaged 17.0 points per game in 25 games played.
Banham is averaging 16.2 points per game with 28 contests under her belt.
Putting the Past Behind Them
With its win vs. the Cornhuskers on Feb. 13, Minnesota surpassed its win total from a year ago. The Gophers now have 14 victories on the season, upping last season's mark of 12.
The 14 wins on the year also beats the squad's 2009-10 win total of 13 games.
With six wins in league action, the Maroon and Gold also has its most Big Ten Conference victories since 2008-09, when it tallied 11 conference wins.