After a turnover-riddled, 11-point loss Saturday at Creighton, the Gophers were looking for a quick start Wednesday when they hosted unbeaten Kansas at Williams Arena.
They didn’t get it. Instead, they had to settle for a midgame rally.
Junior Rachel Banham scored seven consecutive points to close out the first half, and the Gophers went on a 14-6 run after the break, taking a lead they’d never relinquish in a 70-59 victory.
“I think we kind of had some fire in our belly after the Creighton game,” said sophomore Shayne Mullaney, who played all 40 minutes. “We were very determined that we weren’t going to let happen what happened in the Creighton game.”
Banham led all scorers with 26 points, and senior Micaëlla Riché had 20.
But it was redshirt freshman Amanda Zahui B. who dominated the stat sheet. The 6-5 center from Sweden broke a 32-year-old, single-game school record with 10 blocks. Add that to her 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Zahui B. registered only the fourth triple-double for the Gophers program and the first since Janel McCarville, now a star with the Lynx, had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals against Ohio State on March 5, 2004.
Zahui B.’s 10 blocks broke the school single-game record by two. Mary Manderfeld had eight blocks on Jan 31, 1981.
“When you can say her name, Janel McCarville, in the same sentence as Amanda’s, that’s pretty exciting,” Gophers coach Pam Borton said. “I think the sky’s the limit for Amanda.”
Zahui B.’s performance came against a Kansas team riding a three-game winning streak. The Jayhawks beat Creighton decisively on Sunday, and their own premier forward, Chelsea Gardner, entered the game averaging 22.3 points per game.
The Gophers (3-1) held Gardner to just 10 points, and Zahui B. and Micaëlla Riché dominated down low throughout the second half.
The Jayhawks took it to the Gophers early, though, capitalizing on a number of Minnesota turnovers to lead by as many as nine points with 5:32 left before halftime.
But then Banham took over.
The star guard drove for layups on back-to-back possessions, before burying a step-back three-pointer with less than 30 second left before halftime. The Gophers went into the break trailing just 32-30.
“[That run] gave us some momentum and gave us some confidence, and I thought Rachel made big plays when she needed to, and that’s her job,” Borton said.
“It really kind of gave us momentum going into the second half.”
The win is just the fourth against Kansas in program history for the Gophers — in 18 meetings — all four coming at Williams Arena. And considering the Jayhawks are coming off back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16, Borton said the victory means a lot for her team’s confidence.
“I thought this was a statement win for us,” Borton said.