Rachel Banham celebrated a milestone and a monster game Monday night. Unfortunately for her, though, she did not get to celebrate a victory.
The sophomore point guard scored 37 points, including 27 in the second half, and eclipsed 1,000 for her career, but it wasn't enough as the Gophers lost to Illinois 91-86, their fourth loss in a row.
"It's cool," Banham said after becoming the 21st player in program history to hit 1,000 points. "It would have been better if we won, but we just have to keep going and I have to keep producing."
Down by 11 at the break, Banham turned scorching hot in front of an announced crowd of 2,476 at Williams Arena. She finished with five three-pointers and surpassed the 1,000 mark early in the second half to spark a couple of rallies.
"I was just being more aggressive in the second half," she said. "I was playing too safe in the first; that was just on me."
The Gophers trailed 52-41 at halftime and 77-63 midway through the second half, but they charged back behind Banham, whose basket with 4:10 to play capped an 11-0 run that gave her team an 82-81 lead.
From there on out, though, the Gophers (13-8, 2-5 Big Ten) committed five turnovers and sent Illinois to the free throw line 11 times -- 12 counting a lane violation that cost them a point.
Illinois regained the lead on two Taylor Tuck free throws with 3:01 to go, and Karisma Penn followed a Banham turnover with a driving layup to make it 85-82. Ivory Crawford hit a long two-point jumper as the shot clock expired to give Illinois an 87-83 lead.
Sari Noga's third three-pointer of the evening cut the deficit to 87-86 with 1:31 to play, but it was the last shot the Gophers made, as they missed five in the final minute.
Coach Pam Borton faulted her team's defense and an undisciplined final three minutes to the loss.
"You've got to show up and play your A-game," Borton said. "You can't show up and play a C-plus game and win in the Big Ten. It was a C-plus at best tonight."
Micaella Riche had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Gophers, and Shayne Mullaney also had 11 points before fouling out.
The Illini (11-8, 4-3) -- led by double-doubles from Penn and Adrienne GodBold -- hit 11 three-pointers, including seven in the first half, and improved to 4-0 on the road in conference play.
"They did what they had to do to finish," Borton said of the Illini. "We put a lot of pressure on them three times during the game and they executed better in the end."
It was an emotional victory for first-year Illini coach Matt Bollant, who grew up a Gophers fan in Winona.
"I think I had about 60 people come to the game and that was pretty special," said Bollant, a Winona State grad coming off an impressive five-year stint at Wisconsin-Green Bay. "And they were loud and cheering and into the game, which was pretty neat. Fun experience for the Bollant family."