All 12 Big Ten women’s basketball squads begin conference play this week with a winning record.
Minnesota (11-3) plays at Michigan State Thursday in East Lansing, then at Wisconsin next Sunday. Gopher Coach Pam Borton told the MSR after her squad’s double-overtime win over Creighton that she believes her squad’s non-conference schedule has readied them for what is to come.
“I think we’re prepared,” she pointed out. “We’ve played a wide range of teams. We’ve seen a lot of different types of defenses and offenses, a lot of different styles. That’s what the Big Ten is made up of — everybody has a different style.
“I think we’ve been through adversity and played in a couple of overtime games, and had blowout games. I think we’ve seen it all,” noted Borton.
The Gophers are 2-0 in double-overtime games: Soph guard Rachel Banham scored 33 of her game-high 39 points, including 15 in the two extra periods, after halftime in Sunday’s 88-81 win over the visiting Bluejays, who led by as much as 20 points in the first half and by 15 at halftime. She had a then-career high 34 points in the team’s first two-OT victory in November.
“I knew I had to take over the game if we were going to win,” admitted Banham, whose basket with 43 seconds left in regulation tied the game on Sunday. However, Borton was quick to point out that despite the guard’s high scoring ability, “Everybody is in this together.”
“It was a big win for this team,” surmised Borton on her team’s non-conference finale and its five-game win streak for the first time since 2008. “We go into the Big Ten [season] with some confidence and protecting our home court.”
Minnesota is among 11 teams nationwide with at least 11 wins this season — the Big Ten ranks second nationally in the RPI. “Going into the Big Ten with 11 wins is a big deal,” noted Borton. “We are trying to get to 20 wins and get back to the NCAA tournament this year, and it was a game we needed to win.”
“We showed people that we can win games,” added Banham.
Among the conference team stats, the Gophers are second to Penn State in points per game, third behind Ohio State and Purdue in field goal percentage, and fourth in defensive rebounding percentage.
Individually, Banham is second in scoring, third in steals, fourth in free throw shooting and second behind Tayler Hill (Ohio State) in current double-figure scoring streaks. Junior forward Micaella Riche is third in field goal shooting. And the Gophers have the most individual weekly honors thus far: two players of the week (Riche, Nov. 12, and Banham, Dec. 10); Mikayla Bailey (Nov. 19) and Kayla Hurt (Dec. 24) as top weekly freshmen.
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