|Minnesota (14-15, 6-9) at No. 11/15 Penn State (22-5, 12-3)
||Sunday, February 26, 2012
||1:00 p.m. CT
||Bryce Jordan Center (15,261)
||Minnesota trails 11-23
||L, 65-68 (Feb. 5, 2012)
BTN (Dan Kelly, Patricia Babcock McGraw, Dave Leno)
||KBEM Jazz 88.5 FM (Listen Online)
||(Corbu Stathes, Lynnette Sjoquist)
||Minnesota | Penn State
||Minnesota | Penn State
||Facebook | @GophersWBB
The Gophers close out the regular-season portion of their schedule Sunday with their second of two-straight road games against ranked opponents.
Minnesota will take on No. 11/15 Penn State Sunday at 1:00 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.
The Maroon and Gold currently ranks eighth in Big Ten standings with a 6-9 conference record and a 14-15 overall clip, having won two of its last three contests heading into Sunday's matchup vs. the Nittany Lions. The Gophers defeated both No. 16 Nebraska and Illinois at Williams Arena, before falling to No. 8/14 Ohio State on the road Thursday night.
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 16.3 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 .447 three-point shooting percentage, connecting on 46 of her 103 attempts, while boasting an impressive .508 (31-61) three-point field goal percentage in league games.
Senior Kiara Buford is also averaging double-digits in scoring this season, with a 13.4 point-per-game clip. She also leads the Gophers in free throws (96), assists (93) and steals (58).
Junior Katie Loberg is the Gophers' team-leader in rebounds, averaging 6.3 per game, while Kionna Kellogg is averaging a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game in league contests.
Scouting No. 11/15 Penn State
The Nittany Lions enter Sunday's contest ranked 11th in this week's AP Poll and 15th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Penn State has already claimed at least a share of the Big Ten Conference regular-season title for the frist time in eight years and the No. 1 seed heading into the league postseason tournament with a 12-3 Big Ten record and a 22-5 overall mark following a 84-66 win vs. Ohio State on Feb. 20.
The Nittany Lions have won six-straight games and 11 of their last 12 contests.
Maggie Lucas is the Nittany Lions' leading scorer on the year, boasting a scoring average of 19.1 points per game, while Alex Bentley follows close behind with an 14.3 points-per-game average.
Nikki Greene paces Penn State in rebounding average at 8.3 boards per game, good for third in conference standings, and also leads the team in total blocks with 38 on the season.
Thanks to Lucas, the Nittany Lions rank second in the Big Ten Conference standings with a 75.8 points-per-game average. The squad also leads the league with a +15.3 scoring margin.
Bentley is the team-leader with 116 assists and 65 steals, while she also averages 3.1 points rebounds overall.
In the all-time series, the Gophers trail the Nittany Lions, 11-23, which includes a 3-13 road record and a 0-1 neutral-site mark.
Minnesota has won 10 of its last 16 meetings with Penn State, but has dropped its last three matchups with the squad.
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.
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.
Against Ranked Opponents
This season, Minnesota is 2-7 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 their pair of wins, the Gophers averaged 70.0 points and 40.5 rebounds per game.
Rachel Banham has averaged 15.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game against ranked opponents, while Kiara Buford is averaging 11.1 points, 3.6 assists and 2.1 steals per contest.
Kionna Kellogg paces the Maroon and Gold with 6.8 rebounds per game against Top-25 teams, while Katie Loberg boasts a rebounding average of 5.7 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
8/14 Ohio State L, 56-81
Since Pam Borton's arrival at Minnesota, the Gophers are 20-45 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.
Last Time Out
Despite a career night for Micaëlla Riché and 18 points from Rachel Banham, Minnesota dropped a Big Ten Conference contest at No. 8/14 Ohio State, 81-56, Thursday night at Value City Arena.
Riché posted her first career double-double with career highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds, while she was a flawless 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
Meanwhile, Banham extended her streak of double-digit scoring performances to 25 games and was one of five Gophers to pull down four rebounds.
Jackie Voigt was the squad's second-leading rebounder with five boards.
In her final game at Value City Arena, Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis set a program record with 42 points and tied Minnesota's Laura Coenen, Iowa's Amy Herrig and Wisconsin's Jolene Anderson for the 10th-most points scored in a single game on the Big Ten register. Her mark also matched the fourth-highest point total in a single Big Ten game.
Up Next for the Gophers
Minnesota will take part in the Big Ten Conference Women's Basketball Tournament March 1-4 at Banker's Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
Minnesota will be the No. 8 seed in the tournament whether it wins or loses vs. Penn State, as the Gophers hold the tiebreaker vs. Illinois with a 1-1 record vs. Nebraska.
The Maroon and Gold will play the 5:00 p.m. CT contest vs. the No. 9 seed Thursday, March 1.
The Gophers could face either Illinois or Wisconsin in the opening-round contest.
If Illinois defeats Wisconsin on Sunday, the Illini would be the No. 9 seed with their win vs. Ohio State.
If the Badgers defeat Illinois, Wisconsin would be the No. 9 seed with a 2-0 record vs. the Illini.
If Wisconsin beats Illinois and Northwestern defeats Michigan State, the Badgers will become the No. 9 seed as they will hold the tiebreaker with a 3-0 record vs. the Illini and the Wildcats, combined. Northwestern would then be the No. 10 seed with a .300 win percentage vs. Illinois and Wisconsin, and Illinois would drop to the No. 11 seed with a .250 winning percentage vs. Wisconsin and Northwestern.
In the Top 10
With 23 points vs. Illinois Feb. 2, Kiara Buford surpassed Debbie Hunter to become Minnesota's ninth-highest scorer all-time.
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.
The senior currently boasts 1,431 career points, only 11 points away from passing Carol Peterka for the No. 8 spot on the scoring register. Peterka scored 1,441 points from 1982-86.
Buford needs only 19 points to catch Fox for the seventh-best scoring total in program history.
The guard also ranks fifth all-time at Minnesota with 124 three-point field goals, is tied for ninth with 155 steals, and ranks 10th with 303 free throws, 56 blocks and 266 career assists.