The No. 2 seeded Univeristy of Minnesota women's basketball team is set to host No. 8 seeded Manhattan Friday night in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) Semifinals at Williams Arena. Tip off for the contest is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
The Gophers enter the WBI semifinals vs. Manhattan with an even 17-17 record on the season after defeating Charleston Southern and Bradley in the first two rounds of the tournament.
Minnesota's defense is holding teams to a .372 field goal percentage this season, while shooting .411 as a team.
The Gophers have held teams to 60 points or fewer 16 times this season, and to 50 points or fewer seven times, and are only giving up an average of 62.2 points per game.
The Maroon and Gold is outscoring its opponents by an average of 4.5 points per game, as it holds a scoring average of 66.7 points per contest.
Rachel Banham is the Gophers' leading scorer with a per game average of 15.9 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 5.8 rebounds per game, while Banham is close behind with an average of 5.4 points per game.
The Braves make the trip to Minneapolis with an 18-15 overall record out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, where they finished third behind Marist and Fairfield with a 10-8 league mark.
The Jaspers are making their second-straight appearance in the WBI semifinals, having lost to eventual Champion, UAB, in last season's semifinal.
Manhattan is outscoring its opponents by an average of 3.5 points per game this season, but is only averaging 53.6 points per game.
Lindsey Loutsenhizer paces the team with a scoring average of 12.2 points per game. The senior forward is shooting .431 from the field and .803 from the free throw line.
Loutsenhizer is also the Jaspers' leading rebounder with an average of 6.0 boards per game and leads the squad with 78 steals and 84 assists.
Manhattan has won nine of its last 13 contests, which includes a 78-63 victory vs. Holy Cross in its WBI Quarterfinal contest Sunday behind a career-high 25 points from Schyanne Halfkenny.
The Jaspers scored more than 70 points in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 17 and 20, and improved to 8-0 this season when breaking the 70-point barrier.
Friday's contest will be the first between the Golden Gophers and the Jaspers.
However, Minnesota holds a 1-2 record all-time when facing off against teams from the Metro Atlantic Conference, having played Fairfield, Marist and Siena.
The Maroon and Gold's only win came on the road against Marist on Dec. 23, 2000. The Gophers outscored the Red Foxes, 79-61, to pick up the victory.
Up Next for the Gophers
Should the Gophers defeat Manhattan Friday night, they would play in the WBI Championship against No. 7 seed Northern Iowa, who defeated No. 1 seed Seattle Wednesday night, 68-64.
Northern Iowa earned the No. 7 seed in the West Bracket after posting a 16-13 regular-season record and finishing fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 9-9 clip.
Since losing to Creighton in the first round of the league tournament, the Panthers have defeated Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State and the RedHawks to earn their way into the WBI Championship.
The Gophers are a perfect 7-0 in the all-time series vs. Northern Iowa, with their last win coming on Nov. 13, 2007. Emily Fox and Brittany McCoy tallied 15 and 14 points, respectively, to lead Minnesota to the 68-57 victory.
If Minnesota advances to the Championship game, the contest would be Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Williams Arena.
Last Time Out
A strong first half which saw No. 2-seed Minnesota shoot .643 from the field, paced the Gophers to a 85-59 victory vs. No. 3-seed Bradley in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) quarterfinals Sunday at Williams Arena.
As a team, the Maroon and Gold shot a season-high .571, connecting on 28 of its 49 attempts in the game, while all players on the active roster were able to get quality minutes on the floor.
For the second-straight game, Minnesota had four players score in double-figures.
Kiara Buford tallied a game-high 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor and a perfect 8-for-8 outing at the free throw line, while she also dished out four assists.
Micaëlla Riché chipped in a career-high 15 points and two rebounds on 6-for-8 shooting, and Leah Cotton and Katie Loberg contributed 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the winning effort.
With her 16 points against the Braves, Buford registered her 1,500th career point, one of only seven players in program-history to achieve the feat, and enters the WBI semifinals with 1,508 total points.
Kionna Kellogg led the Golden Gophers on the boards by pulling down a game-high nine rebounds, while Brianna Mastey collected six.
In the WBI... So Far
Through two games played in the WBI, the Gophers have put up some pretty impressive numbers.
Minnesota is shooting .545 (60-110) in the tournament, while holding its opponents to a .316 clip.
The squad is outscoring its opponents by an average of 27.5 points per game and is averaging 82.5 points per contest, while holding its opposition to 55.0 points per game.
The Maroon and Gold also holds a +9.0 rebounding margin.
The Gophers have been their best in the first half, posting 89 points compared to 42 for their conterparts.