Pam Borton talks about the Gophers' postseason hopes.
The Gophers enter the first round of WBI action with a 15-17 record on the season and a No. 2 seed in the East Bracket. The squad really clicked during the Big Ten Tournament, as they defeated Wisconsin, 81-49, in the opening round, before taking top-ranked No. 9/12 Penn State down to the wire in a 74-78 loss.
Minnesota's defense is holding teams to a .375 field goal percentage this season, while shooting .403 as a team. The Maroon and Gold is outscoring its opponents by an average of 3.1 points per game. Rachel Banham is the Gophers' leading scorer with a per game average of 16.2 points. Kiara Buford is also averaging double-digit scoring in her senior campaign at 13.7 points per game. Buford also leads the team in assists and steals. Katie Loberg is averaging a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game, while Banham is close behind with an average of 5.6 points per game.
Scouting Charleston Southern The Buccaneers make the trip to Minneapolis with a 17-14 overall record out of the Big South Conference, where they finished fifth with a 9-9 league mark. The squad is the No. 7 seed in the East Bracket. CSU is outscoring its opponents by an average of 3.3 points per game this season and is averaging 71.2 points per game. Rachelle Coward paces the team with a scoring average of 18.0 points per game, with 111 of her 559 total points coming from the free throw line, where she is shooting 81 percent. Lakeitha Alston is the Buccaneers' leading rebounder with an average of 5.5 boards per game. CSU has lost three of its last five contest, including a league-tournament contest vs. eventual champion Liberty, 52-72, in the semifinals.
Series History Friday's game will mark the first meeting between the Gophers and the Buccaneers. Minnesota is 3-0 all-time when facing teams from the Big South Conference, twice defeating Radford and picking up a victory vs. High Point.
Up Next for the Gophers Should the Gophers defeat Charleston Southern Friday night, they will take on No. 3 seed Bradley Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Williams Arena. Bradley defeated Tennessee Tech, 74-71, Wednesday night to advance to the quarterfinals after trailing by as many as 20 points during the contest. The Braves' bench scored 40 of the team's 50 points in the second half to improve their record to 18-15 overall. The Gophers are 2-2 all-time when taking on Bradley, with the teams' last meeting coming on Dec. 3, 1999 on the road, a 56-49 loss. Minnesota's last win vs. Bradley came at home on Nov. 28 during the Gopher Classic. The Gophers came out on top, 84-59.
Minnesota in the WBI Minnesota will be making its first appearance in the WBI since the events inception in 2010. The Gophers are the first Big Ten team to play in the WBI postseason tournament. Friday's contest will be the Maroon and Gold's first postseason appearance since earning an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament in 2009. Minnesota opened the 2011-12 season at the WBI Tip Off Classic, where it posted a 1-2 record. Kiara Buford earned one of six spots on the WBI Tip Off Classic All-Tournament team. The senior averaged 14.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game for the Gophers, while also tallying 10 assists, four steals and three blocks. Buford opened the weekend with 14 points vs. Arkansas, and followed with team-highs of 13 points vs. 14/13 Florida State and 16 points vs. USF.
WBI History The WBI is a 16-team, single elimination tournament divided into two regions, with eight seeded teams in each. It is transparent and a true tournament format just like the NCAA. Appalacian State won the inaugural WBI title in 2010 with a 79-71 win vs. Memphis, while UAB picked up the crown last season by defeating Cal State Bakersfield, 68-60.
Last Time Out Despite holding a 13-point first-half advantage, Minnesota fell just short of upsetting No. 9/12 Penn State, 78-74, in the Big Ten Conference Women's Basketball Tournament quarterfinals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. The Maroon and Gold outshot the Lady Lions, .475 to .362 and also won the battle on the boards, 42-40. Rachel Banham posted a game-high 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting. The rookie added nine rebounds, three steals and two assists in 37 minutes of action. Kiara Buford scored 19 points for the second-straight game on 7-for-13 shooting, with four rebounds, two assists and two steals, while fellow seniors Brianna Mastey and Jackie Voigteach added 10 points in the effort.