This was Rachel Banham time.
Trailing by one point, less than 10 seconds left, one shot to win.
Of course it was Rachel Banham time.
The Gophers scoring machine got the ball near midcourt … 5 seconds, 4 seconds …
She dribbled hard to an opening on the left side … 3 seconds, 2 seconds … Pulled up behind the three-point line, drifting left, ball leaves her fingertips as she’s falling with a second left.
Banham does it again.
Is there anything she can’t do right now?
Banham’s last-gasp three-pointer saved the Gophers women’s basketball team from a loss they couldn’t afford and provided another memorable moment in a season full of them for the dazzling guard from Lakeville.
Her final dagger and 35 total points lifted the Gophers to a 78-76 victory over Iowa at Williams Arena.
The entire fourth quarter became a showcase of Banham’s clutch shooting. She nailed a deep three-pointer with a hand in her face to give the Gophers their first lead — 62-60 — since the first minute of the game. She then hit a contested pull-up 15-footer with 1:19 left that gave the Gophers another lead, 71-70.
She saved her best for the last second, her fifth three-pointer that allowed the Gophers to win for the eighth time in nine games and keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
Banham needed only 14 points to move into second place in Big Ten scoring history. She surpassed that mark before halftime with 15 points, which put her 20th in scoring in NCAA history.
Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante holds the Big Ten record with 2,919 career points. Banham needs only 79 points in her final four games to take that record, too.
The way she’s going, she could do that in her sleep.
Banham entered the game third nationally in scoring at 26.1 points per game, a figure boosted by her 60-point effort against Northwestern, which tied the Division I record.
This is historic stuff we’re witnessing.
Five banners honoring all-time Gophers greats in women’s basketball hang from the rafters on one end of the old Barn. The banners show a photo and uniform number of Laura Coenen, Carol Ann Shudlick, Linda Roberts, Lindsay Whalen and Deb Hunter.
Someday, Banham’s banner will hang from those rafters, too.
Whalen became a transformative force during her career in Dinkytown. Her style of play and gritty leadership made her an All-America and fan favorite.
A generation of girls in Minnesota grew up idolizing Whalen. Banham was a fan like everyone else. Asked in 2012 if she had a favorite player growing up, Banham took a nanosecond to reply.
“Lindsay Whalen, of course,” she said. “I always watch Lindsay. That’s obvious. Who didn’t?”
A lot of young girls now say the same thing about Banham.
A group of excited kids swarmed Banham for autographs 30 minutes after her winner. They probably won’t forget that whole experience Monday night for a long time.
Banham’s legend will grow if she can lead the Gophers into the NCAA tournament and make a run. That’s one thing missing from her résumé, a tournament appearance, a motivating factor in her decision to return for a fifth season after ACL surgery forced her to miss the Gophers’ NCAA bid last year.
She’s doing everything in her power to make sure that happens.
Her 60-point outburst at Northwestern drew congratulatory tweets from Kobe Bryant and various WNBA players.
Her buzzer-beater might have topped that, at least for dramatic effect. Banham watched her shot go through the net while on the ground after falling following releasing the ball.
Banham finished with 35 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, one steal and only one turnover in 39 minutes.
She missed her first four perimeter shots before heating up once the Gophers fell behind by double digits. She hit a fallaway jumper along the baseline, then a three-pointer in transition, then a pull-up jumper.
Seven consecutive points that signaled game on.
Banham is in a scorer’s groove now. She looks unstoppable with the ball in her hands, confident she can make a play, even if there’s only 1 second left on the clock.
Give her time and a shot, and she will deliver.