Junior guard Rachel Banham was the best player on the court Wednesday as the Gophers women’s basketball team cruised by visiting Charlotte 90-55. But Banham, one of the Big Ten’s top returners, is going to be the best player on the court most nights.
What’s unknown is what kind of impact redshirt freshman Amanda Zahui B. will have. Well, Gophers coach Pam Borton thinks she knows.
“She has already made a big impact and, I think, she’s got lot of room for improvement as well,” Borton said. “She’s being thrown into the fire and we’ve given her a huge role on this team.”
After a slow start, partly caused by foul trouble, Zahui B. got going in the second half to back Banham with 19 points and 12 rebounds. The Stockholm, Sweden, native scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the second half, including a nice play when she missed a shot on the left side of the basket, pulled down the rebound, spun and scored on the opposite side.
Zahui B. was making her first appearance of the regular season after missing a victory at Northern Iowa after being suspended one game for what the university called an inadvertent infraction of an NCAA rule. Before that, she scored 42 points, grabbed 31 rebounds and blocked seven shots in two exhibition victories.
Borton wants the Gophers to thrive with an inside-outside tandem of Banham, who averaged 20.7 points last season, and Zahui B., who is 6-5 and mobile.
“It was fun being out there,” Zahui B. said. “I learned a lot. I had to adjust to how everything is right now.”
The Gophers (2-0) outclassed the 49ers early, took a 49-27 halftime lead and cruised in the second half in front of an announced crowd of 2,107 at Williams Arena.
But there was one problem. All four Gophers frontcourt players committed three fouls in the first half, forcing Borton to use a five-guard lineup during one stretch.
“I was like, ‘What’s happening here?’ ” Banham said of the lineup, “because we have never done that before.”
Fortunately for the Gophers, the game was a blowout.
“When you have a point guard and a center that is really anchoring the team and you have nice pieces around them, then we can be very, very successful,” Borton said.
Gophers land five
The Gophers announced their recruiting class on the first day of the early national signing period. They signed five: 5-10 guard Carlie Wagner from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva; 6-0 forward Rangie Bessard from Rosharon, Texas; 6-5 center Josie Buckingham from New Richmond (Ohio) High; 5-8 guard Grace Coughlin from Benilde-St. Margaret’s, and 5-10 guard-forward Tory Jacobs from Irving, Texas.