Nothing seemed to go right for the Gophers women’s basketball team. But Rachel Banham simply wouldn’t let her team lose.
The star junior scored 12 points in the game’s final four minutes, including a deep, pull-up three-pointer with 11.1 seconds remaining, helping the Gophers pull out a 62-60 come-from-behind victory over Green Bay in the first round of the WNIT on Wednesday at Williams Arena.
“Rachel’s a big-time player — refuse-to-lose attitude, killer instinct — and she went out and made shots that she’s made all year,” Gophers coach Pam Borton said.
Banham sat for more than nine minutes in the second half because of fouls but came back and hit her final five shots. She finished with 31 points on 12-for-19 shooting — and a Gophers single-season scoring record with 713 points.
But all she could think about afterward was the wild finish.
The Gophers trailed by five points before Banham made her fourth three-pointer of the night with 45 seconds remaining.
Then, after a defensive stop, Banham dribbled across halfcourt and toward the right corner to set up what was sure to be the Gophers’ last possession of the game. But when her defender backed off an extra step, Banham didn’t hesitate. She rattled home a three from a good 4 feet behind the arc, giving her team the lead.
“Once I left it up there, I knew it was going in,” Banham said.
Amanda Zahui B. blocked Green Bay’s Sam Terry on the ensuing possession, Kayla Hirt added a free throw, and the Gophers were moving on.
“Banham made two shots. We didn’t slip it away,” Green Bay head coach Kevin Borseth said. “Credit them for staying with it, but credit Banham for hitting tough shots.”
Zahui B. finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Sari Noga scored nine points, all coming during the second-half rally.
“Survive and advance,” that’s the lone goal this time of year, Borton said.
But the Gophers (21-12) made that seem difficult early on against Green Bay (22-10), the regular-season Horizon League champion.
Minnesota shot 29.4 percent and had eight turnovers in the first half. The Gophers trailed by 10 at halftime, after scoring only 23 points — 14 from Banham and nine from Zahui B.
Red Wing’s Tesha Buck scored 13 of her team-high 18 for the Phoenix before the break.
Borton blamed the Gophers’ poor start on a bit of rust after a 12-day layoff since her team’s quarterfinal loss in the Big Ten tournament, rather than the disappointment of missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season.
Either way, Minnesota went on an 11-0 run to start the second, and stayed within striking distance until the end.