Before Friday's season opener, the Gophers had promised that their new lineup — featuring four guards — would showcase a fast-paced offense, one with multiple scoring threats that would bomb away from long range. They delivered perhaps even better than they expected, burying Wofford 98-54 at Williams Arena with a big boost from beyond the three-point arc.
The Gophers set program records for three-pointers made and attempted, hitting 16 of 41. Guard Rachel Banham, playing for the first time in nearly a year, made four of those as she connected for 22 points — but she had plenty of help. Mikayla Bailey set career highs with 26 points and 13 rebounds and made 10 of 16 shots, including six of 11 three-pointers. Carlie Wagner, Shayne Mullaney and Jessie Edwards also scored in double figures.
Banham played 26 minutes and also had six rebounds, three assists, a block and two steals. It took her a few minutes to get rolling, but she put in her third shot of the game — a three-pointer, naturally — with 3:20 remaining in the first quarter in her first game since suffering a knee injury last December.
From there, it was smooth sailing for her and the rest of her team. The Gophers held Wofford to 17 percent shooting in the first half as they roared to a 45-15 lead and extended that to as many as 44 points in the second half.
"We really attacked their defense, which is what we have to do every game," said Bailey, who scored 23 in the second half as she made five of her six three-point attempts. "We all can shoot. We have to find the open shooter and have confidence in each other."
Banham said she was "really nervous" at the start of the game. The senior came back for a fifth year following knee surgery that ended her season after 10 games last year.
The hours before tip-off seemed to drag on forever, she said, but she settled in after hitting that first shot and scored 17 first-half points. She played only 11 minutes in the second half as the Gophers overwhelmed the Terriers, who shot 30 percent and were outrebounded 62-31.
"I didn't want to play hesitant at all, because that's when bad things happen," said Banham, now 85 points away from becoming the program's all-time leading scorer. "I was ready to roll from the start.
"I just wanted to get out there. It felt great to be out there again and get that first game under my belt."
The Gophers used an 18-0 surge over the first and second quarters to turn an 11-11 tie into a 29-11 lead. Wofford went more than seven minutes without a basket during that span, and the Gophers outscored the Terriers 34-4 over the final 12 minutes, 30 seconds of the half.
The Gophers' biggest task this season will be replacing All-America center Amanda Zahui B., who left after two seasons for the WNBA. Edwards, a 6-3 sophomore from Australia who joined the program in September, won the starting job for the opener.
Edwards played 19 minutes and made four of six shots, adding seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Freshmen Annalese Lamke and Danielle Garven got limited minutes in relief.
Coach Marlene Stollings said the three will continue to compete for minutes.
"It's going to take them a little bit to get accustomed to the intensity and the physicality of play on game day,'' she said. "They have work to do, and they know that.''
Stollings was pleased to see the Gophers spread around the rebounding responsibilities, as seven players got at least five apiece. She and her players were more than pleased to see them share the three-point workload, too.
"When we're feeling hot, it's scary," said Wagner, one of five players who made at least two three-pointers. "It doesn't surprise me we hit so many."